Mar 22, 2012 - By Emily Etheredge, Staff WriterWhen Riverton councilwoman Mary Ellen Christensen wondered what happened in Riverton after dark, she made an effort to find out.
Christensen participated in the Riverton Police Citizen's Academy in 2011 but missed the session where individuals rode in patrol cars to see what police officers deal with on a regular basis.
"I think everything is a two-way street, and if you want to know about something, then go find out," Christensen said. "If you want to know how the police officers are interacting with the community, then go talk to them.
"I hear people say they wish they could be closer with the police officers in Riverton, and I often wonder if people have really put forth the effort to get to know them."
Christensen signed up for the Feb. 24 night shift and accompanied Riverton police officer Scott Gardner from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Christensen said she was impressed with the officer's level of professionalism, and she was encouraged by the kindness and consideration the officer showed while interacting with a family on a medical call.
"Having the opportunity to be a 'shadow' to this police officer dealing with a medical situation ... was really interesting to me," Christensen said. "I felt like officer Gardner really respected the family, and I was very impressed with how he handled everything."
At one point during the patrol, Christensen was allowed to drive the car back to the police station. She said she was amazed by the technology on the interior of the vehicle.
"The computer systems were so neat. I felt nervous to touch anything when I was driving back and really could not believe all of the different buttons and machines inside the car," Christensen said.
"You can press a button inside the patrol car that allows you to hear what is going on out of sight. So, if a police officer goes into a house or something, you can press a button in the car and hear what is going on."
Before the patrol, Christensen was told she would be escorted back to the police station if a major incident occurred. During the patrol, a man was arrested, and Christensen said it was awkward not knowing her place.
"I wanted to turn around in the back of the car and talk to the young man, but then I thought it might be best to not talk to him, so we just sat in silence as we drove back to the police station," Christensen said.
Christensen encourages anyone wanting to find out more about the Riverton Police Department to sign up to ride with an officer.
"I would love to do it again, and I think people would be amazed that our police officers respond to a lot of calls in an area that is very different after dark," Christensen said.
Anyone who participates in the Riverton Police Citizen's Academy will have the chance to ride with an officer and patrol Riverton. The Citizen Academy runs from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. beginning Thursday, April 5, and lasts for eight weeks.
Individuals 18 and older interested in learning first-hand about the Riverton Police Department are asked to call Riverton police chief Mike Broadhead at 857-7603.
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