By Julia Williams
Most cities have programs where civilians can spend a few hours riding shotgun with a police officer out on patrol. It’s a great way for ordinary citizens to get a behind-the-scenes look at law enforcement, whether for a future career or just to satisfy their curiosity. As a Journalism student in college, I was assigned to the “police beat” and took many such rides. For a young girl who’d never been in trouble with the law, these adventures were all quite fascinating, but one in particular was unforgettable. I was allowed to go on patrol with a K-9 cop and his four-legged partner, a German Shepherd named Samson. Decades later, I can still vividly recall this ride along.
It was a dark and stormy night. Just kidding! It was probably a night like any other for Officer Kaiser and Samson. As for me, I could feel the excitement in the air. I was ready for the “action” I hoped would ensue, because I wanted to write a story that would blow the socks off my Journalism teacher.
Prior to riding with Samson, I’d been forewarned by fellow officers that “the dog stunk to high heaven, paced back and forth all night, and barked at anything and everything.” Most of that was true, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
When I first saw Samson, he was inside the police car. Kaiser called Samson over, ordered him to “stay” and sauntered back to the car. I said something dumb like “Nice doggy” as I held my breath and waited for him to bite my leg. He didn’t bite, of course, and off we went on patrol. Samson rode in the back seat; a partition separated us, but this didn’t stop him from periodically sticking his furry face through a little window to lick mine.
We drove around for a long time, and just when I thought we’d never see any “action,” a call came over the radio about a fight at a liquor store. Kaiser spun the car around, flipped on the lights and accelerated. Samson went wild in the back seat, barking and pacing in a frenzy. When we arrived at the scene, three men were standing around a hippie sitting on a moped. Fighting? Not so much. I was disappointed.
Kaiser got out to speak to the men while Samson stood at attention, half his body inside the car and half out the window. He kept a keen eye on them and his human partner, barking now and then to make his presence known and felt. I stayed in the car, because citizens who ride along aren’t allowed to get out, for safety reasons. As I peered out the window, I spied a very stiff, obviously dead squirrel in the basket of the moped. I wanted action, and this is what I got, a stiff squirrel? Wow.
The hippie told Kaiser “Hey man, I just want to get back to Santa Cruz and these dudes are hassling me.” Samson barked fiercely to show his disapproval. It’s a known fact that the mere presence of a police dog is enough to deter crime. The bad guy sees the dog, fears the bite, and suddenly whatever unlawful thing he intended to do is forgotten. In this case, I don’t think it mattered, but Samson remained keenly focused on the goings on regardless. After some discussion, Kaiser let the hippie and his dead squirrel go, and we continued our patrol.
At one point, Kaiser drove to a deserted lot and yelled “Take a break!” For a split second I thought he meant me. What? Get out of the car…here…now? No way! I was relieved to realize he was telling Samson it was time for a potty break. LOL. Samson flew out the open window, ran around for a minute before doing his “business” and then jumped back in the car. Most police dogs nowadays are given their commands in a foreign language, to prevent the criminals from being able to understand them. I don’t recall why Samson’s commands were given in English, but perhaps this was standard procedure back in the day.
When all was said and done, I received an A- for my story about that “action-packed” night on patrol with a dedicated police dog. K-9 Samson is in doggie heaven now, but riding along with him was an experience I’ll remember forever.
Top photo by Kristine Gunter
Middle photo by Scott Davidson
Bottom photo by Svadilfari
Read more articles by Julia Williams
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