ITHACA, N.Y. — Day three of the Ithaca Citizens’ Police Academy covered medical training officers receive to ensure that in an emergency situation, people receive basic medical care until a paramedic or EMT can reach the patient.

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The 16 participants in the class were able to handle the same kind of equipment officers use such as tourniquets and quick clotting combat gauze. Check out the video below, featuring an Ithaca High School student and police Officer David Amaro trying out a tourniquet:

For more information about medical training police officers complete, check out former editor Jeff Stein’s story here. 

The following piece is written bu Roselyn Teukolsky, a retired teacher and fiction writer who recently complete her ride along with an Ithaca police officer:

My drive-along cop is Officer Baldacci. Here’s the thing about Officer Baldacci: he is twelve. He tells me he was born in 1990, and he’s a rookie. This is his first year with the IPD. I am a retired school teacher, and I immediately want to nurture him.

Without guile he tells me he’s the low man on the totem pole and this is why he has to do most of the Police Academy drive alongs. He says with a goofy smile that he’s happy to do it. That way he gets to talk to people other than drunks and stoners.

We climb into the air-conditioned SUV, which is like a tank, and off we go to West Village, his turf. He tells me that this is the high crime area of Ithaca. It’s up on West Hill, where the subsidized housing is. Officer Baldacci is part of the Police in the Community program, and therefore he lives in an apartment in West Village.

“It’s OK,” he tells me. “It’s a nice apartment and I meet some really neat people.”

The SUV has an amazing feature, a computerized camera that takes a picture of every license plate within range of us, and checks it out. If it is on a stolen car, or the owner has an outstanding ticket or is a felon on the run, the computer lets out an alarm so Officer B can give chase and flag the vehicle down.

Officer B mutes the feature, so no alarms go off during our drive-along session. Too bad.

We get a call from an angry home owner that a car is blocking his driveway and he needs to go out. It’s very exciting to speed along to take the call. Officer B likes to put a heavy foot on the pedal without turning on the siren. It is so much fun to zoom along to the scene of the crime. As a writer of mysteries and thrillers, I imagine myself having a grand adventure that will end in disaster.

When we arrive at the house, both the criminal and home owner have left the scene. The end.

While driving down town to the high crime area, we see a man lying on the sidewalk and a guy sitting next to him with his hands on the man’s throat. Officer B hangs a U-turn and various other questionable nifty vehicle maneuvers so we can check it out. He tells me that anything screwy like that needs to be investigated.

The deal is, when he stops the car, he locks me in and instructs me to stay put, for my own safety. Rats. He goes and talks to the guys on the sidewalk and before long they are all buddy-buddy high fiving all around. I can see that my cop takes joy in his job and is a great people-person.

He bounces back into the car and tells me all is OK. The guy on the sidewalk is a panhandler. He was standing and holding up his sign when this guy stopped to hand him some bucks. The panhandler then told him that it’s tough work holding up that sign all day, and it’s given him a pinched nerve in his neck, and now he has this injury which is affecting his ability to panhandle.

“Well, it’s your lucky day,” the Good Samaritan says. “Guess what, I’m a masseur. Lie down on the sidewalk and I’ll fix you up good.”

So when Officer B and I drove by, that’s what we saw: the panhandler getting a massage on the sidewalk.

“That’s what they told you, huh?” I say, bringing to bear all the cynicism of my 68 years. In my life as a writer of diabolical tales, life is not that simple. “When I turn this into fiction,” I tell him, “I guarantee you that’s not what was happening on the sidewalk.”

He tells me a story of a recent experience.

He drove in a “bad” area and saw a small girl playing on the sidewalk, and a dodgy man eyeing her. Officer B drove around the block and the guy was still hanging around, loitering, doing nothing but looking at the girl. So the cop parked the car, and asked the little girl where she lived, and she led him up the road to her house.

When she was safely inside with her mother, he went and told the guy to push off somewhere else.

This week Officer B got told that the mayor received an email telling him to tell the cops to mind their own bloody business, that she, the mother knows where it’s safe for her kid to play, and the last thing she needs is the Ithaca Police Department making her kid frightened about playing outside in her own neighborhood. (This story may be apocryphal. Perhaps it happened to a different cop.)

Officer B tells me that he always tries to do the right thing, but doesn’t always succeed. He’s still learning the ropes.

We have some actual excitement. A cop radios for backup. There’s a suspicious vehicle idling in the parking lot of the Army Reserve Center up on West Hill.

“The military types don’t like strange cars idling on their territory and they called the cops.”

Officer B doesn’t put on the siren but we do speed along. He doesn’t use the GPS and ends up taking a wrong turn, landing us in a dead end. Now he’s sweating bullets and really frustrated. “Hold tight,” he tells me, as he swings around, and off we go again.

It turns out that the guy in the car is waiting for his girlfriend and has a general issue with cops.

From my perch in the SUV, I watch how they eventually persuade him to leave, after a long and tense conversation. Again, all ends well.

We have another call on the way to drop me off at the IPD headquarters. There’s a report of a scantily dressed woman running down State St. with one shoe, very drunk, wearing a red shirt. So he asks me if I have time to go with him on one last call. “Sure,” I say.

I turn out to be a bit of a hero here, because I’m the one who spots the woman running into a shop, and she’s wearing a red skirt, not a red shirt, but she seems very loopy and I tell Officer B that I bet she’s the one.

He locks me in and goes to investigate.

So I’m stuck in this idling SUV with the air conditioning on, cooling me down to 40 degrees. For about half an hour I’m trapped in there, and it feels like I’m locked in a meat locker, getting claustrophobic, and cold like a piece of beef, and I wonder if I should call 911 and ask them to rescue me from the police car. The dashboard of the SUV looks like the controls of an airplane cockpit, so I’m scared to push any buttons to lower the air conditioning, in case I set off some kind of deafening siren or a terrorist alert. I don’t need to add to the problems of Officer B, so I sit and suffer, hoping I don’t freeze to death.

I imagine the story I will write, in which the crazy woman in red turns out to be just fine, but the old lady in the SUV has expired.

I call my friend Edy and tell her I’ll be late for our dinner date. This adventure is taking longer than anticipated. I also tell her to call the cops if I don’t show up.

It turns out that the inebriated woman is a habitual offender, a drug addict and alcoholic who is mentally ill. If the cops refer her to Social Services in Ithaca, the IPD (i.e. taxpayers) must pick up the tab. So they patiently take the time to convince the woman to go with them to the hospital, where the State will pay. (They are not allowed to coerce her; so they have to be persuasive. That’s what caused the long delay.) Officer B tells me later that the folks at the hospital will calm her down, put her in detox, allow her to sleep over, and return her to the street the next day.

He is resigned about it: We need to protect the taxpayers from this kind of humongous cost.

At the end of our shift, my officer is a real gentleman who drives me into the parking garage and drops me right at the door of my car. The time flew by, except at the end when I was trapped in the SUV. I learned a lot.

As I say goodbye, I’m thinking about that poor woman running down State St.

“Eventually a car is going to hit her,” Officer B says sadly and matter-of-factly; like this is his job, day after day.

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Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.