Oklahoma City police ridealong: Hefner Division
Sgt. Austin Shroyer hasn't made it a mile from the Hefner briefing station before pulling up on his first call of the night.
A woman stands behind an older model sedan with flashing hazard lights that is blocking one lane of NW 122 as rush hour traffic whizzes by.
Shroyer radios to tell dispatch his location and the nature of the call — a “motorist assist” — and steps out of his scout car.
The woman informs him her car is out of gas, but fuel is on the way. Shroyer uses the “push bar” on the front of his police vehicle to shove her car across three lanes, out of the flow of traffic and onto a neighborhood street.
Dispatch informs Shroyer a woman at a nearby apartment complex is reporting someone pounding on her door and refusing to leave. The young woman welcomes him inside when he asks if he can step out of the hot sun to talk.
The trespasser had formerly stayed with her, she said, but hadn't for some time and has no possessions in the apartment. The woman has already left and did not force entry, so Shroyer doesn't go searching for her. Her tells the resident to threaten a trespassing arrest and call police again if she returns.
The apartment is clean and tidy, but as the conversation continues, the aroma of burned marijuana begins to saturate the air through the recent fog of air freshener.
The two conclude their business, and Shroyer steps out into the heat again.
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He recently served a six-month stint on “Impact,” the police department's drug task force, and the pungent smell of weed did not go undetected.
“Officers have some level of discretion, and I know the difference between the smell of a little burned marijuana and 16 pounds of hydro in a closet,” Shroyer said.
The next call is an “agency assist” — a Department of Human Services employee has to pick up a 2-day-old girl because a background check on the baby's grandmother was flagged, and the child and her mother stay at the residence.
The call takes Shroyer from the disturbance near The Village to a house on the outskirts of Bethany.
The caseworker and Shroyer meet at a shopping center around the corner from the house to go over some background. The baby's mother and grandmother have been informed and, while unhappy, are cooperative. But the baby's father is livid, and state employees worry there could be a confrontation.
Shroyer prepares for an encounter, but the family opens the door and welcomes them into the house.
The house is orderly and the grandmother is working to assemble an overnight bag for the child with clothes, diapers and the like.
Her daughter is rocking her newborn. The flag stems from a murder charge that was decades old, she said, and was dropped because it was a case of self-defense.
The caseworker discusses tomorrow's court date on the matter, and the baby is loaded into her vehicle. Aside from a basic greeting and a few head nods, Shroyer and the other officer on the call did not communicate with the family, serving only to back the social worker.
Then it's off to the edge of Yukon for back-to-back calls.
A dog has reportedly been hit with a nail-studded board. Several officers are on the scene when Shroyer arrives. The accused woman tells officers she did swing a board at a dog in her yard while it was attempting to attack her cat. The people who called police are standing across the street, telling their side to another group of officers.
No one is arrested or cited, and after tempers have abated an officer goes off in an attempt to find the dog while Shroyer takes another nearby call.
Shroyer works second shift, which runs from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. The hectic call volume that night means Shroyer won't get to eat dinner with his son after his first day of kindergarten. Instead, they speak briefly over the phone while he is en route to his next call.
He pulls into a convenience store parking lot to find two men in a pickup with a trailer attached. The man tells Shroyer he and his wife are divorcing and he has found a number of his firearms for sale online. He fears the situation could get violent.
They leave the parking lot for the house while Shroyer radios to dispatch that he'll be out on a “civil standby,” whereby a police officer stands as a mediator between heated parties.
The lights are off as they arrive, and the man uses his key to get into the house. He enters quietly, but the dog alarm goes off when they enter the foyer. The dog calms down once he realizes who's coming in the door, but a woman emerges from the back bedroom, screaming at everyone to get out of her house.
“Ma'am, this is his house too. I can't make him leave,” Shroyer tells the woman.
She's having none of it.
She pushes past the officer and attempts to stop her husband, who is already gathering his belongings. She tries to snatch items from his hands as he carries them out to the pickup.
The woman turns her attention to the friend and attempts to shove him out of the house. He asks the officer if he can have her arrested for assault.
Shroyer declines the request and tells him to start loading stuff. The friend begins hauling items from the garage to his trailer while the woman chases her estranged husband around the house and runs interference while he attempts to load the pickup cab.
Shroyer does his best to calm the woman but she won't cooperate, so he threatens her with handcuffs.
It's well after dark by now, and the only sounds in the quiet neighborhood are the couples' voices as they argue from the shed in the backyard to the edge of the driveway and back into the duplex.
After about an hour, everyone is visibly exhausted except the woman, who is still going strong. She has abandoned her direct aggression and is resorting to hiding his clothing in cabinets and drawers while he gathers items from other rooms.
Shroyer ends the standby after they begin bickering about hygiene items in the bathroom. Everything else can be handled in court, he tells them.
“That was probably the worst civil standby I've ever been on,” Shroyer said. “I'm exhausted.”
But the calls keep coming, and a woman who has already spoken to police is demanding an officer come to her home to discuss an incident at a car wash earlier that evening.
Hefner gets the most “nuisance” calls, Shroyer said. Most are petty skirmishes that do not result in arrest.
“Sometimes people don't get the answer (they want) and they call back to speak to another officer. I guess they think they're going to get a different answer,” Shroyer said.
The caller said when she came out of the wash, the bumper was detached from her car. The manager did not handle the situation to her liking. She started taking cell phone video, she said, and refused to leave when he ordered her to. The manager eventually snatched the phone from her hand, walked outside, sat it on the curb and returned to work.
Shroyer listens patiently through the woman's account before telling her the manager did not break any laws, and may only be guilty of poor character and bad business. He suggests she take her complaint to the owner, her insurance company and social media.
The woman seems disappointed, but understands.
“Sometimes I just ask them, ‘What do you want me to do?' A lot of times they don't know. Or they think we'll know what to do. I think some of them just want someone to listen to them,” Shroyer said.
The workload has slackened as the clock pushes toward 11 p.m. Shroyer checks in with fellow officers from his division and heads back across northwest Oklahoma City toward a taqueria in the heart of the city that's open late on weekdays.
He radios to dispatch. He's 10-84. That's cop talk for “out to lunch.”