In an effort to get a better understanding of what police officers go through during a shift, Coastal Courier reporter Asha Gilbert did a 12 hour ride-along with the Hinesville Police Department. The ride-along was separated into three parts beginning with a sergeant, then a woman patrol officer, and finishing with a senior patrol officer.
The following is her first person account.
I arrived at the HPD at 5:45 pm to begin what would be a long night. The 11 officers began with a briefing led by Star Corporal Norman Ewing informing officers of any outstanding incidents or any suspects they should be on the lookout for. Due to classified information I was not allowed to be in the initial briefing.
After the briefing, I went to Sgt. Donald Nunnally’s and Ewing’s office to prepare for the first part of my shift. I would ride with Ewing from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. before switching to another officer. Friday was Nunnally’s first day back from vacation and he was going over a list of all reports not turned in. Nunnally has been with the HPD for 15 years. Ewing was downloading video from body cameras to storage. Ewing has been with the HPD for nearly 20 years.
6:47 p.m.: Ewing and I hop into his patrol vehicle and begin our shift patrolling Hinesville.
Riding down Highway 196, Ewing explained that he was in the Army for six years and was stationed at Fort Stewart for two. He decided to stay in Hinesville and joined the HPD in 1998. While riding through Harbor Rain apartments, Ewing waved and smiled to the kids playing football in the grass. As a first line supervisor he doesn’t get dispatched to calls unless it is serious in nature.
7:46 p.m.: There is a call over the radio to be on the lookout for a woman with children who might be having a psychotic episode. Ewing writes the information down.
8:30 p.m.: We observe an officer make a traffic stop.
8:45 p.m.: Over the radio we are advised of a possible high speed chase with a vehicle going over 100 mph.
After clarification, we learn that the driver did eventually pull over and was not heading into Hinesville. Ewing explained in the case of a high speed chase through Hinesville, officers would block off major intersections to protect motorists and aid officers pursuing the vehicle.
By 10 p.m., it was time to switch to patrol officer Jessy Kilgore. She was the only female patrol officer during the graveyard shift. Before heading out, we stopped at the 911 call center to meet the staff.
10:38 p.m.: We get into the patrol vehicle and begin patrolling the B14 sector of Hinesville.
We sat in the dark on Desert Storm Road to see if anyone would run one of the stop signs. I learn that Kilgore has been with the HPD since June 30, 2017. Due to no one failing to stop at the stop signs, we start back patrolling the roads. It is around this time, I begin to get sleepy.
11:42 p.m.: Kilgore makes her first traffic stop of the night for a missing license plate off of Highway 196. The driver is a 17-year-old, driving his mother’s car. She decided to let him go with a warning.
12:24 a.m.: Kilgore stops a vehicle for their headlights not being turned on.
12:34 a.m.: Kilgore pulls over another vehicle for missing a headlight. The driver shows Kilgore a bulb with receipt that he just purchased to correct the traffic violation. She lets him go with a warning.
12:44 a.m.: We were dispatched to Liberty Regional Hospital for a woman trying to leave after signing paperwork admitting her to the hospital. Kilgore made contact first with the woman, as other officers came to assist. The woman eventually agreed to go back into the hospital. She had allegedly been a victim of sexual assault.
12:55 a.m.: We were dispatched to suspicious activity and a man being in the middle of the road. While arriving on the scene, a vehicle stops and advises Kilgore that the man was doing jumping jacks in the middle of the road. When Kilgore made contact with the man, he was noticeably intoxicated and was apparently trying to get home. Nunnally arrived on the scene and gave the man a ride to his residence.
“We could have arrested him for being publicly drunk, but sometimes it’s not the right answer,” Kilgore said.
1:39 a.m: We were dispatched to a possible sexual assault call and Ewing came to assist. The officers met with the victim and gave her a ride away from the residence at her request.
While on that call, over the radio we are informed there was a car accident on Highway 196 where a vehicle attempted to flee a hit-and-run and rolled over. No one was injured and the driver of the fleeing vehicle was arrested and taken to HPD.
At 2 a.m., it was time to finish my shift with Senior Patrol Officer Steven Johnson. Johnson has been with the HPD for 4 and a half years.
After my second redbull of the evening, I got to see how it can be very difficult staying vigilant during the graveyard shift. Luckily, a local gas station gives the officers free coffee during their shift. In the last four hours of the shift we were dispatched to one possible racing call. After a few traffic stops we headed back into the HPD at 5:45 a.m. to finally head home.
The debriefing was short with everyone ready to leave. The officers work 28 days on a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift before rotation to a day shift. The women and men sworn to protect the public even into the wee hours of the night during the graveyard shift deserve respect from residents, in this reporter’s opinion.