MENU

Thin blue line

Lantern news editor Grant Schlichting rides along with local police officer to get some insight into the criminal justice system

Grant Schlichting

Grant Schlichting

The author begins his ride-along with Cannon Falls officer Paul Larson

Grant Schlichting, Cannon Falls High School

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






It’s eleven O’clock on a Saturday night and Officer Paul Larson has just pulled over a rusted green blazer that has a tail light out. As he steps out of the squad car he gets called by dispatch in nearby Red Wing. “Status?” “15” Meaning check in in 15 minutes. Like clockwork he pulls the flashlight from his belt full of gadgets and walks towards the car. He taps on the glass as a simple gesture to have the window rolled down, but nothing happens. As he shines his light through the window, he can make out a man reaching in the center console. At this point Larson puts his hand on his gun and thinks about Mendota Heights Officer Scott Patrick and the funeral flashes into his mind; a beaten Pontiac Grand Am was the last thing Officer Patrick saw before his life was taken from him. By the time the window rolls down, John Doe hands Officer Larson his driver license and registration. As the adrenaline slowly fades out of his system, Larson breathes a sigh of relief as he walks back to his car with the registration.

A ride-along

An added level of fear, stress, anxiety, grief, and adrenaline all make policing a difficult pill for a lot of people to swallow, yet men and women in blue all around the country wake up at 3 AM to cover an early morning shift or stay out until 1 AM doing late night patrols. I wanted to learn what makes these people tick. What makes officers get up in the morning not knowing what the day will hold? What makes them risk their lives to save those who would not even say thank-you in return? These questions brought me to the Cannon Falls Police Department.  I signed up for a ride along and Officer Larson was open for one.

It was mere chance that I was able to ride along with an officer I already knew pretty well. I have a policy in my life of going up to anyone in uniform – whether it’s military or police – and saying thank you for your service. Larson stopped in one night during patrol to watch a high school basketball game, and my friend and I worked our way from the bleachers to tell him thanks for his service. What was going to be a five minute conversation turned into an hour, as we asked him questions about what life was like as a cop. As soon as I got into the squad car, we hit it off right where we ended two months ago at that basketball game.

Small town — big problems

Police Officers walk, drive and bike to protect our community without knowing what’s around the corner up ahead – Literally and figuratively. There may be more corners – and more troubles – in an inner city, loaded with gang violence and ethnic tension, but small town cops have their own array of problems that get overlooked by citizens across the country. A lot of danger lurks in the cornfields at night around small towns that are pit stops for the goods of commerce- and crime – that travels down the concrete arteries of our nations to the cities.

Small town like Cannon Falls can be extremely volatile. Highway 52 connects the town with metropoles like the Twin Cities, Rochester, and even Chicago. Locations right off of this main highway are ideal spots for drug dealers to transfer supplies from one vehicle to another or to meet buyers. As a sophomore I was coming home from a party and there was a drug bust right in the center of downtown Cannon Falls with at least twenty solid white blocks of cocaine. This is a problem that all offices have to face coming from small towns, because crime doesn’t just stop at a city’s borders.

Dealing with stress

policeman’s struggle doesn’t stop once his shift ends. Trauma, PTSD, and fitting in with civilians all compound the problems an officer faces in the field. Research has shown that police have higher suicide rates than the general public. Dealing with the emotional problems that arise from having a tough job like policing has gotten better. Before in departments across America there was a ‘Tough Guy’ attitude that police officers shouldn’t seek out a psychiatrist or mental help. This mindset has changed and now almost every city has a counselor to deal with the traumatizing experiences that comes with the job. Officer Larson revealed one experience that was tough to handle. It was a snowy winter’s night, and he got a dispatch for a two year old girl “Acting Funny” when he arrived at the scene, she was not breathing and he started CPR. Once the paramedics arrived they brought her to the hospital, but she was later pronounced dead. Larson says “Law enforcement is realizing that for high stress, emotional encounters we have, we need to talk about it afterwards.” This is where the counselors come in, to help officers relieve some of the stress that comes with the profession.

Larson also affirms that having friends that aren’t police officers helps cops adjust back to civilian life and not dwell on the hardships of the job. But getting back to civilian life is just that – trying to get back to it. As the saying goes, crime never sleeps, so cops can’t either. For Officer Larson’s wife, Shelby, it can be tough. “It is definitely hard not having him around for holidays/big events.” She said. But the stress is there everyday when he goes to work, not just at Christmas dinner when there is an empty seat at the table. “The scariest part about being married to a cop is knowing after a shift, he may never come home. His life’s in danger every day.” These are the sacrifices patrolmen make – missing big holidays, moments with their children, and putting their life on the line – all in the name of duty, honor, and service to their community. It’s a sacrifice that cannot be overlooked.

It’s crucial for community-police relations that we understand what our men and women in blue face day in and day out. “Whenever someone tells me their dog won’t bite, I just don’t know,” affirmed Officer Larson. “I don’t know your dog, I need to take precautions.” These precautions may range from watching your dog, or if a car is pulled over late at night unbuckling his holster for a quick draw on his pistol. Citizens need to understand the situations police are placed in and that their lives are at stake everyday. With this information we must do everything in our power to help diffuse tense confrontations. My father told me that if I ever get pulled over, I should roll my window down, turn on the dome lights, and put my hands on the steering wheel. Simple gestures like this and staying calm while working with police will help prevent miscommunication, which in some instances has lead to violence.

Read the remainder of the story here.

Navigate Right
Navigate Left
  • Thin blue line

    Features

    Emerson teen raises awareness of friend’s battle with cancer

  • Thin blue line

    Features

    Walking to remember

  • Thin blue line

    Features

    Community Bands Together to ‘Strike Out ALS’

  • Thin blue line

    Features

    Local rhythmic gymnasts find the sport challenging, yet rewarding

  • Thin blue line

    Features

    Kicking history into new heights

  • Thin blue line

    Features

    A day in the life of a ‘Lunch Lady’

  • Thin blue line

    Features

    Despite challenges, Children’s Book World, independent bookstores thrive

  • Thin blue line

    Features

    Will students be able to ‘change’ their ways?

  • Thin blue line

    Features

    Best seat in the house

  • Thin blue line

    Features

    Bucket Brigade