Reporter Mark David Smith is currently attending Keller Police Department’s Citizen Police Academy, which meets once a week for three months. Because of schedule conflicts, he had to miss Week 2 of the program, but instead was granted a police ride-along on a different day.
I wasn’t ready.
Sixty seconds after pulling out of the Keller Police Department parking lot —driving almost 40 mph on the two-lane Bear Creek Parkway — Patrol Officer Chris Happ suddenly swung a U-ie, hit the gas hard to catch up to a maroon minivan and slammed on the brake. Buckled in the plastic backseat with little legroom, I braced myself and wondered why he was pulling the minivan over. We had just passed each other in opposite directions, and it wasn’t speeding.
“Expired inspection sticker,” Happ said after giving the driver a warning and returning to the patrol SUV.
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“I’m impressed you saw that,” I said.
“After a while, you notice little things like that,” he said with a chuckle.
Happ, an 11-year veteran of the department, patrols KPD’s Sector 2, the southeastern-most of the department’s five sector beats. He’s given many ride-alongs to prospective officers, curious residents and members of the Citizen Police Academy. Star-Telegram Photographer Juan Guajardo and I had the opportunity to ride with him Thursday afternoon.
Thirty seconds after leaving the minivan, Happ saw a taillight was out in the white sedan in front of us and pulled the driver over. A few minutes later, we were on our way through his beat in one of the safest cities in Texas.
We drove through neighborhoods and major intersections, as Happ explained that over the years, he’s gotten so familiar with his sector he knows many of the residents, where they live and what it usually looks like each day. It helps him recognize when something is out of the ordinary, and may be a problem.
Officers aren’t limited to their beat. During evening rush hour — near the end of officers’ 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. shifts — it gets busy and officers respond to calls in other parts of town.
“You feel like a giant ping pong ball at the end of the day,” he said.
They aren’t limited to patrol, either. Patrol officers — separate from the traffic division — pull over drivers with traffic violations and can be called to cover accidents.
The calm before the storm, turns out the “mid-afternoon is the dullest portion of the day.”
Our ride-along was mid-afternoon.
However, Happ was called to assist at a car wreck because all the traffic units were busy just after 2:30 p.m. We drove to the wreck on U.S. 377 in the southbound lanes just north of North Tarrant Parkway. Three vehicles were involved and eventually towed. No one was injured, but one driver was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. According to the police report, a woman driving a pickup "failed to drive in a single lane" and hit another vehicle.
I watched as Happ took reports from the drivers involved, coordinated the tow trucks and talked with the driver who apparently tried to change lanes when there was a vehicle in the way. The woman gave him a plastic bag containing 10 prescription pill bottles. According to the police report, some of the medications listed drowsiness as a side effect.
He gave her a series of DWI tests: He asked her to follower his finger with her eyes, then to take nine steps toe-to-heel and back in a straight line, and to balance on one leg. She wasn’t able to complete the tests adequately, and he placed her under arrest.
It was the second DWI arrest that afternoon in Keller, an “usual day shift.”
The vehicles were towed away, the mess was cleaned up and traffic was cleared in less than an hour.
It was far from over for Happ, though.
“My day just went from long to longer,” he said.
It was 3:30 p.m., and Happ expected to finish out the rest of his shift with the arrest paperwork. Four separate forms needed to be filled out and filed, and he needed to upload the dashcam video and link it all together in the system.
All Keller residents can request a police ride-along. Police check the applicants’ record for warrants and criminal histories, which may be cause for a ride-along request to be rejected. To set one up, call KPD at 817-743-4500 with at least 48 hours notice and have it approved by a shift supervisor. Participants must sign a liability waiver and follow the rules of conduct.
I was unable to attend the Citizen Police Academy meeting last week because it conflicted with the City Council meeting. At the CPA class, Sgt. Jared Lemoine discussed the department’s philosophy and values. The PowerPoint presentation highlighted the personal service, continuous improvement and leadership cultures the department aims to promote among its officers.
If you take a tour of the police station, you’ll see posters that read “E to the 4th Power.” It emphasizes four core values the department urges its officers to share: Empathy, Edification, Enthusiasm and Excellence.
Chaplain Brian Hamlin also presented at the CPA class, discussing the stressful parts of policing, which can lead to spiritual, emotional, cognitive and physical dysfunction. The lesson showed how negative and positive copers to stress can help or hurt officers and its effect on their families.
On the docket next week: Bike patrol, adult criminal investigations and juvenile investigations/sex offenders.