My day with the CPD started just after twelve o'clock with Officer Justin Roue, a dedicated individual who has been with the “force” for six and a half years. He comes from just down the road (Fosston) and is getting married in September. Roue is not only a police officer, but he is also an active shooter instructor, taser instructor and field training officer. He is currently on the “day shift” from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. and rotates weekends, plus fills in for people on vacation and for special events. Roue “won” the bid for the day shift for the year during the CPD's annual sign-up.
A police officer’s job is one of the most unpredictable jobs on the planet, but people might also say that about someone in the media. When you get to work in the morning (or at night), you have to be prepared for whatever is “thrown” at you. Not one day is the same. The media, along with the city’s civilians, rely on law enforcement to “serve and protect” as well as respond quickly to situations that may arise. The Crookston Police Department not only “serves” and protects” the citizens of their town, they also go above and beyond in the community. That became quite apparent during my recent “ride along” with the CPD.
My day with the CPD started just after twelve o’clock with Officer Justin Roue, a dedicated individual who has been with the “force” for six and a half years. He comes from just down the road (Fosston) and is getting married in September. Roue is not only a police officer, but he is also an active shooter instructor, taser instructor and field training officer. He is currently on the “day shift” from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. and rotates weekends, plus fills in for people on vacation and for special events. Roue “won” the bid for the day shift for the year during the CPD’s annual sign-up.
So, it turns out ride alongs aren’t as rare as I thought they were and that helped ease the nervousness that remained in my stomach since the hour prior to our meeting. Roue has had his own family members ride along as well as high school students doing a job shadow and interns in the summer. You can tell that Roue is used to it judging by his “calm as a cucumber” demeanor.
One of the first things Officer Roue showed me was the equipment in his squad vehicle (Chevy Tahoe.) There are front and rear radars that can run speeds while stationary or during drive time, a “Watch Guard” camera that records front and back (and turns on automatically when the lights are activated), the computer (or mobile office) that can check license, registration and plates as well as checking to see if someone has an order for protection against them or if they’re a predatory offender; siren panel that has three levels of lights plus flash lights built in for alleyways, 800 radios that can go statewide for officers to listen and respond, breath test and field test box, M4 rifle, 12 gauge shotgun, and more.
On his person, Roue (and the other 15 officers on the CPD) carries a baton, taser, mace, two sets of handcuffs, a flashlight, a pouch with gloves, gun, two extra magazines for his gun, a knife, an audio recorder, radio, cell phone and camera on his belt. Plus he wears a bulletproof vest during the entire shift. It’s mandatory.
Put that all together with the “stuff” in the trunk (a “GO” bag with gloves, magazines for the rifle and pistol, maps of the area like the college, schools, trailer court, etc.; first aid kit, traffic vest, fire extinguisher, a gas mask that is fit specifically to the officer, spikes, long gloves, catch pole for aggressive animals, oxygen tanks, plus more) and you have a “full” vehicle that’s ready for just about any situation.
Speaking of situations, I was pretty excited (and more nervous) about what we would encounter on my ride along. Like I mentioned earlier, every day is different and you never know what’s going to happen.
Officer Roue said there were a couple cases he would be following up on during his shift that day and a stolen bike was one of them. Apparently, one kid saw another kid with this stolen bike and it had been spray-painted, but they were able to match the serial numbers.
Side note: I had my own bicycle stolen from outside my place of employment one day and noticed a person riding what appeared to be the same exact one in a building behind mine, but “my” bike had been spray painted. I didn’t know that a person should write down the serial number and/or put their name somewhere on it or submit the number to the police department in case it gets stolen, so when it came time to try to “claim” my bike it was too little too late. Even though the gentlemen’s story was shifty, the women’s bike in his possession had been spray-painted and the fact that I didn’t have any way to significantly prove the bike was mine, there was nothing the officer could do. Now, I know better. The CPD officer even gave me a little tip to make sure I could identify my bike if I ever had another one stolen, but I’m not going to share that in this article. Perhaps you can find me walking downtown, at the grocery store or at an event and I’ll tell you.
But, back to the situation at hand. Officer Roue let me (and dispatch) know that he would be going to a suspect’s house to follow up on the stolen bike incident. He pulled out his audio recorder and documented “what, when and where” before walking up to the house. I decided, in case the situation should get tense, that I better sit this one out. Roue returned shortly after with no new updates, but he had received a call from a mother of a boy who may know what was happening so we headed to the office so he could follow up.
At the office, Roue gave a quick tour of the place and we said “Hello” to the dispatch employees and Crookston Police Chief Paul Biermaier. The “Chief” was at his desk either doing paperwork or computer work and was able to chat for a minute or two before we headed to the basement where Roue’s office is. On the way down, I just had to ask (since I saw a noticeable box nearby) if it’s true that cops like donuts and Roue gingerly replied with, “there’s always a 12-pack of donuts here.”
Downstairs were the basement work stations and, honestly, they weren’t anything too fancy - that I could see anyway. There were maps of Crookston, posters that had information about different kinds of drugs and each station maybe had a few pictures of officers’ family and friends. Officer Roue made his return phone call and before I knew it we were headed back upstairs to the squad car.
I forgot to mention that before we went inside the office, and after Roue showed me the contents of the squad, we got to try out the spikes in the parking lot. He demonstrated how to hold them and throw them, and then I did a quick throw. Roue admitted that he hasn’t ever had to use them in the time he has worked for the CPD, but they’re there (in the back) “just in case.”
During my ride, I got to learn how to use the radar remote (although it took some getting used to) and I used it periodically during our visit. We traveled up and down Central Avenue, Barrette Street, Main, Broadway and everywhere in between to search for speeders. Once we decided to park across from the fire hall where most cars speed down the hill is where we caught our first “real” speeder of the afternoon. It was a young lady who didn’t have anything on her record, so Officer Roue let her off with a warning. Again, I chose not to get out of the vehicle because, well, I didn’t feel all that comfortable and didn’t really want to be looked at funny or interfere with the conversation. Later, a traffic complaint came in from Minnesota State Patrol about a driver weaving “all over the road”, but we must have missed them as we took a drive out to the area on Highway 2 and didn’t notice anything. Was that “weaving driver” on their cell phone? Perhaps. It’s happening more and more every day.
“People are so addicted to their phones and technology, and it’s getting worse,” stated Officer Roue. “It’s nice when people use things like Siri to make a phone call rather than stare down at their phones when they’re driving.”
So, what about cops on their phones? Wouldn’t that be considered distracted driving? There’s training for that (among the other monthly, annually, biannually, triennially and multiple trainings they are required to have) and officers like Roue often use Siri or other voice-activated apps to make their calls. In fact, I witnessed Roue call an officer back using Siri while he was on patrol. Plus, being on a phone call while driving isn’t technically illegal. It’s when people are staring at their phones, texting, going on the internet and things similar is what’s illegal. And Crookston police officers are “cracking down” on technology use while driving, too. Officer Roue and I even went on a sort-of-kind-of stakeout to search for people on their phones while driving. During that “stakeout” is when the “real fun” began.
Officer Roue and I overheard another officer say that he got a call from a woman who found “something” on the sidewalk, and she’d like some assistance. After that officer retrieved the object, he said he was taking it back to the station to check it out. Roue asked if we should go check it out too and I gave a definite nod of approval. When we walked down to the CPD basement, I noticed a little bit of a mood change in the officers. An excitement or awakening of some sort. Turns out the object the woman found was a big bag of drugs, felony style.
Inside the found purple Crown Royal bag was two sandwich baggies plump full of marijuana “buds” (I Googled it), two small baggies of what appeared to be methamphetamine (because of the crystal formation, said the officers), a needle syringe (after testing it appeared to have been used due to the moisture in the plunger, said one investigator), a scale (wonder what that’s for…), and a handful of extra empty baggies.
First up, Officer Roue and the others did a field test to make sure the drugs actually were the drugs they believed to be. The test kits are small pouches with bubbles of chemicals inside that they pop to see if the liquid turns a certain color to indicate it is, in fact, the drug they had in mind. The first pouch indicated positive for marijuana and the second indicated positive for meth.
The marijuana weighed in at 43.5 grams and the meth was about two grams making both a felony charge if they caught the person that the drugs “belonged” to. Inside the evidence room, officers and investigators used a sealer and evidence bags to individually “bag and tag” the found drugs. On the evidence bags, they include a case number, date, officer badge number and they label the items in each bag such as 1) 0.2 grams of meth, 2) 1.8 grams of meth, 3) 27.8 grams of MJ, and 4) 15.7 grams of MJ, for instance. They also take photos of what was found and initial all the seams of the evidence bags so they know if something is tampered with. Once those bags are ready, they put them in another big bag, seal it and initial the seams again, plus throw a “biohazard” sticker on it.
All together, that Crown Royal bag contained over $1,000 (street value) in drugs which made it a felony. Plus, if they decided to “dust” the scale for fingerprints, it might be relatively easy to find out who may have been involved.
Officer Roue said, since he has been on the force, he has never seen that amount of drugs “on the street just lying there on the sidewalk” before. I honestly can say I never have either, but I was glad that a child did not pick up the bag before the woman found it.
After all that excitement, it was time to go back on patrol. Honestly, I don’t know if anything could top that part of the day. Roue drove us around a while longer as I used the radar to try to catch another speeder and we finally “caught” one headed out of town near the University. I believe we “clocked” him at 64 in a 50 mph zone. The driver had North Dakota plates, so Roue had to call the information in to dispatch (his computer/mobile office only contains info for Minnesota.) Turns out the guy was valid with no hits, so Roue gave him a warning. (What a nice guy!)
“Hopefully the warnings deter people from speeding again and correct their action,” added Roue.
For those of you that believe the myth about the “monthly quota” and thought that Roue’s “warnings” aren’t going to help him, you’re wrong. There is no “monthly quota” and there is no “boost” for tickets towards the end of the month. Apparently it’s against a state statute.
As we wrapped up the day, and I reluctantly had to give back the radar remote, I was pretty thankful that I got this opportunity to ride along with one of Crookston’s finest. It taught me that it’s better to be safe than sorry (always wear your seatbelt), look out for others (both literally and figuratively), and appreciate the hard work that our local law enforcement provides. Not only does their presence keep people “in-check”, but lets Crookston remain one of the safest towns in Minnesota.