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A police ride along can give citizens a look at a patrol cop’s night

Doug Ramsay photo

Snohomish Police Deputy Jason Sandt keeps an eye out for any trouble as he patrols the streets of Snohomish from his Police Interceptor SUV last week.

SNOHOMISH — When an everyday person goes on a police ridealong, wearing that bulletproof vest while paired with an officer on patrol, the sleepy streets of Snohomish take on a suspicious cast.
Passing a background check is all it takes to arrange a time to ride with a deputy for a different look at this quiet town.
The evening starts with suiting up: While traffic stops are the most common activity officers see, fastening on the straps of the Kevlar vest still causes a little surge of adrenaline. A dark red “Citizen Observer” jacket completes the ensemble.
The work is serious. No chances are taken with safety.
Navy veteran and nighttime Officer Mike Celestine gives the safety briefing. He recently moved to Snohomish to live in the city he serves. 
He coaches observers: at traffic stops, stay in the car unless waved over. If the officer is dispatched to a dangerous call, prepare to be dropped off and the ride along halted. If weapons appear, find sturdy cover, because hiding behind a bush can protect you from being seen but won’t stop a bullet.
Then, it’s out into the night.
During the four-hour ride along, license plate checks and traffic stops add up quickly. One person pulled over for speeding has an invalid driver’s license, while another with a blown headlight should have re-registered their vehicle months ago.
Even on an uneventful evening, the shift is full of variety. Officers at Blackmans Lake tramp through bushes checking on former encampments of homeless people: this night, only trash and the remains of a makeshift campsite are found; they find discarded bicycle parts and pallets, perhaps to sleep on.
A call comes in on teenagers horsing around on top of a park structure roof. They’re down before officers arrive and are lectured on proper park etiquette.
Another call is a tattletale attempt: someone’s ex is overdue on child support and the caller hopes they can be arrested on an active warrant, except officers checked and found no warrant.
In another call, Celestine advises a woman with multiple issues who says she’s left a violent relationship only hours before on where to get shelter and aid.
In a suspected theft call, a woman with a warrant gets a break when that city declines to extradite her. Lacking cause to search, officers don’t get to look inside her backpack.
After a friendly check-in at a soccer tournament and one last traffic stop, the ride along is over, but Celestine is back on patrol, policing Snohomish as evening turns to morning and the rest of the city sleeps.
To set up a ride along, start by calling the Police Department at 360-568-0888.


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