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My Ride-A-Long with Officer Brelsford

Last night I had the opportunity to go on a ride- a-long with EPD’s Officer Michael Brelsford. Michael grew up in Eugene. He became a police officer after serving in the marines, then working at a local lumber mill for seven years while his 3 children were small and his wife finished law school. He told me many times – I love this job! It’s so fun! You’ll soon see why.

What I witnessed last night during my Ride-A-Long from 9:30 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. was an officer who conducted himself with the utmost professionalism, respect, and compassion in the course of his duties.

Here is what else I learned:

– The payroll tax has allowed the EPD to hire more officers. 50 more people have been, or are in the process of, being hired. EPD had a shortage of line officers, so this money is helping.

-Anyone can apply to become a police officer. Once the department hires you, they train you. The EPD has an in-house intensive 10-week training in advance of the OSP 16 week required training. After finishing the 16-week OSP training, the cadets come back to EPD and go through a rigorous on the ground training for another 4 weeks. Our police officers are well trained professionals.

-It is illegal to walk or ride a bike on the street (bike paths are OK of course). It is also illegal to ride a bike at night without bike lights. A police officer can pull you over and ask questions if you are riding or walking in the street, but not if you’re walking on the sidewalk.

I started the night in the briefing room with Unit 60. Officer Brelsford (whom I’ll also refer to as: O.B.) said he has been on the force for 2 years and feels lucky to have landed with this unit. The team talked about what to look forward to that night – warrants out, etc. On this particular night, they had their picture taken together!

EPD’s Amazing Unit 60!

Then, officer Brelsford gave me a tour of the station on 300 Coburg Road. We noted the facility is great and has some room for growth. He also complimented Chief Skinner, noting how he goes to bat for the department to get the money it needs, and doesn’t skimp on things. He knows how important it is for our officers to feel valued and safe.

Officer Brelsford works out every evening before he goes on duty

We then got into the police car and drove downtown for the grand tour of the late-night Eugene party scene. O.B. also showed me the area business on W. 11th that are heavily impacted by people’s drug use and people leaving garbage piled up on their property. The businesses have had to place iron fencing/gates and no trespassing signs. Then we headed over to his ‘beat’ – the area out Coburg around Willakenzie. He explained how he “cops” – driving through the quiet late-night neighborhood streets, the darker streets, off the beaten path.

The night brought a chase. Officer Brelsford pointed – ‘see those 2 guys on bikes? No bike lights. Riding in the middle of the street’. Ya, I said. Let’s go see what they’re up to. We drove around the block, and came up behind the two. As O.B. slowed down behind them, they both looked over their shoulders then took off, fast, seeing the police car. One got away, and we chased the other, zipping fast up down around the residential streets, O.B. broadcasting to the young man to stop. Telling him he’s under arrest. Stop. Dude. You need to stop. You’re under arrest. The young man ignored him and kept riding, standing legs pumping. I noted to O.B. that the bike didn’t have a seat. Oh, he said, I didn’t notice that. He must be getting tired. We chased him into a dead end where O.B. couldn’t pursue. He turned the car around. A woman in her bathrobe came running out the door of her home, waving. He jumped over the fence, she yelled. Stay here says O.B. and jumps out. Locks the door behind him. He went to look over the fence, then paced around the spacious yard, talking deftly into his earpiece to set up a perimeter. 10 minutes later, he gets back into the car, and we drive a few short blocks to where the young man had been found by a K9 hiding in the bushes. O.B. jumps out of the car. Good Dog! Good Dog! He tells the 4-legged officer, whom, I find out later is a newly trained 2-year-old named, aptly, ‘Sargeant’.

6 or so police cars had converged on the scene, all of whom had helped to create and maintain a perimeter. It was an example of skillful teamwork. They dispersed, and O.B. placed the young man, hand-cuffed, into the back seat of the police car. While O.B. was finishing up talking to an officer, I asked the young man, why didn’t you stop? I panicked. I don’t know. I just panicked. My body flooded with adrenalin and I booked. How are you feeling? I asked. Are you Ok? Yes, he said. Sorry that happened to you, I said. That must feel scary. Ya, he said, but it’s probably for the best. I’m pretty sure this is better than where I was heading. Oh, were you off to no good? Ya, he said. I make bad decisions more than I want. I’m working on it.

O.B. got into the car. How ya doin’ Dude? They’ll have a Gatorade for you at the jail. What’s your name? The young man gives his name. Have a warrant? No. Yes. I don’t know. I forgot to mention, Officer Brelsford’s car, like all police cars, are equipped with a computer and keyboard. The computer has a database, Word program, etc. It’s his main tool on the job.

Computer screen referred to frequently

He punched in the young man’s name, and up comes the record. It looks like you have a bench warrant. He said. Petty larceny. 2 years ago. Ya. Maybe. That sounds right. I forgot to show.

While O.B. was filling out the affidavit in the car, he asked if the young man had done drugs in the past 2 hours. Ya. Meth. Have any on you now? No. Where’s the backpack? Drugs in the backpack? I dropped it. No.

On the way to the county jail, O.B. had a conversation with the young man, encouraging him to show up to his court dates so he wouldn’t feel the need to run from the police in the future. At the county jail, I went in and witnessed the booking, and O.B. filling out the report. Now, the county jail isn’t a place one wants to hang out. The air in there is very bad. Not at all healthy. It’s dirty and generally just very unfortunate. I imagine that’s a good thing in a way. It’s a discouraging, non-welcoming environment.

We got back into the car. O.B. explained that there is an uptick in crime in that neighborhood. People who are riding around late at night with backpacks and hoodies with no bike lights aren’t out for an evening ride to take in the fresh air, or on their way home from a party. They are trying doors on cars and homes. The back pack was dumped/hidden because it likely had drugs and stolen items, or burgle tools. The young man ran because he knew he had a warrant, was high, and was engaging in criminal behavior. His record showed a history of a couple of felonies and some misdemeanors. This evenings antics acquired him another misdemeanor to add to the growing list.

O.B. hoped the young man would find his way out of his unproductive peer group, into sobriety and a good life. Me too.

Awhile later, on our next round in his beat, we saw 2 young men on bicycles again, riding by Kelly Middle School. We pulled along side as before. The young men stopped. O.B. rolled down my window. You guys need to have lights on your bikes. O.K. It’s late. Head home now. We’re on our way. O.K. Have a good night. I noted the contrast there – that if the first set of guys had just stopped, one of them wouldn’t have ended up in jail. O.B. said, the first 2 were criminals. These kids are just kids out late.

There were a couple of other calls that night – a party out in Duck Land, and someone having a hard time on drugs over on Patterson near Franklin. By 2 a.m. or so I decided to call it a night. Officer Brelsford’s shift went until 7:30 a.m. I wasn’t going to make it that long!

This is a long post! I wish I had more pictures to illustrate the depth of the experience, but my phone died early on. I’ve been so busy on the campaign trail I forgot to charge it. But, I hope you all ‘get the picture’ through my writing. 😊

Thank you Officer Brelsford!

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