Seth’s Stories Riding the ‘South beat’ with SBPD

Seth Eaker

Starting at 7:30 p.m. on a Saturday night on a police ride along, after a full day of work and with a full day expected on Sunday, is not what most people think of as fun on a weekend.

Personally, I had no idea what an adventure it would turn out to be.

We talk about “life in the bubble” here in Seal Beach, that is quiet, quaint and quiescent.  After dusk on a weekend, things do change.  Riding with Officer Nicholas Nicholas  (yes, same first and last name) in unit 207 certainly changed my view of Seal Beach and the Police Department of our seaside town.

First off, there is a North and South “beat”—as demarcated by Westminister Boulevard.  We were on the South beat, so we had the Hill, Old Town, Surfside and even the Sunset Aquatic Park that can only be accessed through Huntington Beach.

Just to let you know, I thought we might have a few calls, but in the time I was with Officer Nicholas, we fielded 17 calls and had additional “self-initiated” officer action.

Considering I was with him until almost 3 a.m., that is a lot of activity.  We were in constant motion.  We went to a potential overdose in Sunset, responded to burglar alarms at businesses, pulled over potential DUI drivers and even cyclists who were not riding with lights or even obeying traffic lights.

We listen as community members to the significant budget associated with public safety, particularly police.

Nearly 39 percent of the total budget goes to operate our police department and jail, yet we get an invaluable level of service, security and courteous safety as a result.

In the police car, it was evident technology, like a dedicated laptop computer, was in place to ensure rapid communication, effective information gathering in the field and swift response time.

Officers really have three basic ways to interact with the community while on patrol: any call for service, through self-initiated action and by having a uniform presence in areas where large numbers of people congregate and intoxicants are present.

Coincidentally, we also had the opportunity to take the police six-wheeler out onto the beach for about 45 minutes to sweep both sides of the Seal Beach Pier because the grunions were running.  I have never seen the beach so busy at nearly midnight.  There is certainly a lot of activity down by the jetty every night.

We even helped look for a missing person from a neighboring community by trudging up and down the jetty with flashlights looking for him.  Most of those along the jetty were happy to see us and help, and—well, those who weren’t ended up dumping out their beer and moving on.

A great way to go to jail

Perhaps what was most impressive was the level of courtesy that the police had with citizens.  At no point were any of the officers rude, impersonal or anything other than friendly.

Strangely and a bit sadly, I can’t say the same of our citizens.  Do you really think that being rude to an officer is going to yield a better result than simply being kind and polite?  I can assure you, being rude or non-compliant is a great way to go to jail.

Oh, and forget about lying about how much you drink.  With advances in biological understanding, the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test is a fairly foolproof way to know that you have been drinking and even an approximate level of intoxication that you are currently in.

I watched Officer Nicholas correctly evaluate a driver to within .008 percent blood alcohol.  That is pretty darn accurate, and yes, the driver was over the legal limit, he actually blew a .088 percent, and could have been arrested for DUI.  Instead, he got to park his car, find another way home and not have his life ruined with a DUI.

There are some other communities where the letter of the law, rather than the spirit of the law, is followed.  We got the drunk off the road, and I doubt it will happen again.

Did I mention that Officer Nicholas’ greatest joy as an officer is to find DUIs and get them off the road and/or take them to jail?  After seeing him in action, I know that is the case.

So let me share a few key observations about our town that I learned.

First, don’t drink and drive, and if possible, don’t drink to excess. It makes you stupid and a potential danger to yourself and others.

Second, have lights on your bike.  After pulling three cyclists over, one with a recent felony conviction, another too drunk to get his kickstand to work and a third who was simply a danger to himself, it was obvious to me that lights on your bike and thinking that riding your bike drunk is OK is definitely not OK.

Third, keep control of your life and those around you.  If you are in a relationship, don’t air your dirty laundry in a bar, by calling the police or involving others in your drama.  Look to resolve it before you get in any more trouble.

Fourth, make sure you have current information on file with the police for yourself and your business.

It is pretty scary trying to clear a large empty building with alarms going off at 2 a.m. when you have no idea who might be inside doing who knows what.

The police need to get in contact with you, so take a moment to make sure that you have at least a correct emergency phone number if your alarm goes off.

Finally, be thankful and courteous to our police.  With every stop and interaction, I saw officers who were unfailingly gracious and more than anything else, wanted to help our citizens.  We enjoy and incredible police department that is the envy of many other communities.

Sure our jail may cost money, and yes, officers are compensated, but I know as a citizen, I enjoy a level of service from our police that I just couldn’t get anywhere else.  Special thanks to Capt. Tim Olson, Sgt. John Scott and of course, my ride Officer Nick Nicholas for allowing me to be part of the team for at least one night.

Seth Eaker is a past president of the Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce and founder of Black Marble Consulting, LLC.