A Night to Remember: Riding Along with Westminster PD

Disclaimer: Any vagueness in this article is due to limitations on information I can legally state, due to the nature of the events involved.

In Westminster, as with the majority of small towns across America, there exists what some might refer to as a “seedier” side. There’s no better way to experience this side than to spend a night riding along with the local police department, and experiencing the side of town they see in their line of work.

The night begins as all do, in a room in the lowest level of the Westminster Police Department, where the night shift meets before going off on their patrols; here, I am assigned to ride along with Shift Sergeant Steve Launchi

We depart from the station after all the official business has concluded, and make a beeline for the Wawa on Route 140. Here the shift meets again, and chat over complimentary coffee, soda and slurpees (the first of which I grab a cup of, a decision I will both praise and regret in equal measure for the rest of the night). Launchi explains to me that this is a nightly tradition, a way that the patrolmen can have a more informal briefing before going out on their rounds.

From here, the night gets off to a fairly slow start. We park across from the bars on Main Street, on the lookout for drunken brawls that spill into the street. I’m told that, with some regularity, these involve altercations between college students and townies, over everything from insults to poorly thought out flirting with taken women.

However, this night both Rafael’s and Johansson’s are peaceful, and we spend the time discussing the soccer team Launchi coaches, and The Rock’s performance of “Shake it Off” on a recent episode of Lip Sync Battle. We pull over a few drivers for various minor offenses, and investigate a brief domestic disturbance that ends in a great deal of shouting, but not much else.

Around this time though, the night begins to speed up. It all begins with a simple drunk driving stop near the Wawa, which we pull up next to as another officer administers a field sobriety test; needless to say, the driver fails spectacularly. However, as the aforementioned errant drunk is put into the back of a squad car, the radio squawks out something I don’t catch, but which causes Launchi to pull a quick U turn and flip on the sirens. As we race back towards downtown, Launchi fills me in: there’s been a stabbing, and we’re en route to it.

We pull up to one of Westminster’s less desirable apartments (the location of which I’ll leave undisclosed for the sake of any residents there) and I’m told to remain in the car until allowed to exit; it takes a good half hour before I’m allowed to. I emerge to a scene with a number of Westminster’s homeless and drug addicted involved in an altercation. The victim had, luckily, suffered only minor injuries, and the two suspects involved in the incident are both taken into custody.

It’s around this time, however, that one of the witnesses, going off of my cover identity as an officer in training, attempts to feed me information. I call one of the officers over, and we’re given word that the suspects had briefly left the scene before we’d gotten there, and had likely hidden some of the contents of their bags. This leads to the rest of the night being dedicated to Launchi and I searching the alleyways near the scene, looking for where said items might have been hidden.

This goes on until around the end of the night shift, at which point I’m returned to my dorm, a sense of dualistic banality and excitement in me.