As I sat waiting for my ticket, I hated the speed trap, the 30 mph zone and the fact that it was on a sharp slope. I was tempted to hate the officer writing the ticket, but I didn't know him. Honestly, I only know one cop. So I called Officer Chris Grimm to help me understand the police mentality.
After graduating from Roberts Wesleyan College in December 2009, 21-year-old Grimm attended Erie County Police Academy and joined the Gates Police Department. Today he works the late shift, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. At that time of night, anything can happen and Grimm knows it.
"When you're planning on a typical night, that's when the atypical happens," Grimm said. With this sense of the unknown comes a sense of responsibility. Grimm said he realizes that those dozing in their beds are unconsciously reliant on him to protect their possessions and loved ones. Gates' border with the city of Rochester includes the 19th Ward and Maplewood, a neighborhood notorious for criminal activity.
One night last month, while Grimm was making a routine stop, things became "atypical." Grimm flashed down a car for running a stop sign around 11 p.m. The car sped up, pulled a U-turn and drove towards Grimm. The pursuit was on and Grimm's mind was racing. "I'm like, did he just commit a burglary, just rob a house, is he armed, does he have a gun?"
Suddenly, the car stopped. A man ran out and into residential backyards. "And I'm chasing after him," Grimm recalled. "He was fast - I would liken him to a deer." The man began jumping fences through the neighborhood, and as Grimm did the same, he realized he would not catch up. He doubled back to make sure the runner would not get back to his car.
By searching the car's plates on the DMV database, Grimm found the man's address and radioed backup. Other officers found the man at home but once again, he eluded arrest. Finally, the K-9 unit was called in, and Grimm moved through the neighborhood with the dog.
"After half an hour or so, we come up on this other house and the dog starts freaking out," Grimm said. "This guy starts crawling out from underneath a deck." He subdued and arrested the man, who had clearly been drinking. Later it was found that the man had several prior DWI convictions and was apparently fleeing to escape another.
"It was an exciting caper," Grimm recalled. "That's what makes the job interesting, because you never know when that night is going to be."
Grimm said that while there is a high potential for officers to become jaded in dealing with criminals so frequently, this can be avoided by remembering to see the good in others.
There is also a risk of assuming an "us versus them" mentality, Grimm said. He dispelled the notion that officers get a rush from exerting authority on civilians.
"We're cops," Grimm said. "[Cops] do their job and their No. 1 priority is how can I get home [safely]. At times we have to be d----, at times we have to be compassionate, helpful, serious - there's so many different hats that we wear for the different situations that we come across."