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Take a ride with a Concord master police officer

  • Master Police Officer Eric Crane, left, and Master Police Officer William Dexter, right, talk to a man holding an "Impeach Obama" sign on an overpass over Interstate 93 in Concord on Thursday, July 4, 2013. Despite the holiday, Crane answered seven calls and made three traffic stops in the span of three hours. Crane has been a police officer for 20 years, 15 of those years with the Concord Police Department.<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

    Master Police Officer Eric Crane, left, and Master Police Officer William Dexter, right, talk to a man holding an "Impeach Obama" sign on an overpass over Interstate 93 in Concord on Thursday, July 4, 2013. Despite the holiday, Crane answered seven calls and made three traffic stops in the span of three hours. Crane has been a police officer for 20 years, 15 of those years with the Concord Police Department.

    TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

  • Master Police Officer Eric Crane drives in a patrol car in downtown  Concord on Thursday, July 4, 2013. Despite the holiday, Crane answered seven calls and made three traffic stops in the span of three hours. Crane has been a police officer for 20 years, 15 of those years with the Concord Police Department.<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

    Master Police Officer Eric Crane drives in a patrol car in downtown Concord on Thursday, July 4, 2013. Despite the holiday, Crane answered seven calls and made three traffic stops in the span of three hours. Crane has been a police officer for 20 years, 15 of those years with the Concord Police Department.

    TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

  • Master Police Officer Eric Crane processes a man, who was arrested on a bench warrant, in the booking room of the Concord Police Department in Concord on Thursday, July 4, 2013. Despite the holiday, Crane answered seven calls and made three traffic stops in the span of three hours. Crane has been a police officer for 20 years, 15 of those years with the Concord Police Department.<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

    Master Police Officer Eric Crane processes a man, who was arrested on a bench warrant, in the booking room of the Concord Police Department in Concord on Thursday, July 4, 2013. Despite the holiday, Crane answered seven calls and made three traffic stops in the span of three hours. Crane has been a police officer for 20 years, 15 of those years with the Concord Police Department.

    TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

  • Keys are seen in the booking room of the Concord Police Department on Thursday, July 4, 2013. <br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

    Keys are seen in the booking room of the Concord Police Department on Thursday, July 4, 2013.

    TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

  • Master Police Officer Eric Crane, left, and Master Police Officer William Dexter, right, talk to a man holding an "Impeach Obama" sign on an overpass over Interstate 93 in Concord on Thursday, July 4, 2013. Despite the holiday, Crane answered seven calls and made three traffic stops in the span of three hours. Crane has been a police officer for 20 years, 15 of those years with the Concord Police Department.<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff
  • Master Police Officer Eric Crane drives in a patrol car in downtown  Concord on Thursday, July 4, 2013. Despite the holiday, Crane answered seven calls and made three traffic stops in the span of three hours. Crane has been a police officer for 20 years, 15 of those years with the Concord Police Department.<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff
  • Master Police Officer Eric Crane processes a man, who was arrested on a bench warrant, in the booking room of the Concord Police Department in Concord on Thursday, July 4, 2013. Despite the holiday, Crane answered seven calls and made three traffic stops in the span of three hours. Crane has been a police officer for 20 years, 15 of those years with the Concord Police Department.<br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff
  • Keys are seen in the booking room of the Concord Police Department on Thursday, July 4, 2013. <br/><br/>TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff

Late yesterday morning, Master Police Officer Eric Crane of the Concord Police Department compared working the Fourth of July day shift to “hanging out on a Sunday morning.”

The weekday influx of government workers are absent from the city and most residents leave to spend the holiday elsewhere, he said. All of the Fourth of July police action usually occurs at night when officers deal with noise complaints and residents illegally setting off fireworks.

“It’s like a ghost town,” Crane said of the downtown area he was assigned to patrol from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. “Once the sun goes down, it changes. . . . It will be a very busy night.”

Crane was still maintaining his shift would be a quiet one when he was called to Concord Hospital about 11:30 a.m. A severely intoxicated male was brought to the hospital in an ambulance and the police were needed to take him into protective custody, Crane said.

“This individual has had way too much to drink and can’t take care of himself,” he explained. “When we bump into people like that, we have a duty to care for them when no one else will. We’ll try to find someone to care for them, but if we can’t we take them into (protective custody) and take them to county jail until they’re sober. And then we’ll release them with no charges.”

Sometimes individuals being taken into protective custody don’t mind, Crane

said. They know they will have food and a place to sleep and sober up at the jail.

But other times, they get angry. In this case, the middle-aged man jumped up on his hospital bed, grabbed hold of a machine hanging from the ceiling and kicked his legs out toward Crane and his partner at the scene, Master Police Officer Jason Wimpey. The officers immediately subdued the intoxicated male on the ground, handcuffed him and arrested him on charges of disorderly conduct and attempted criminal mischief.

While Wimpey took the man to the police station to be processed, Crane admitted the holiday may be a little busier than normal.

“The coolest thing about this job is you never know what’s going to happen next,” he said. “You go from nothing happening to grabbing a guy that’s hanging from the roof and getting him on the ground in handcuffs. Either nothing could happen, or that could happen.”

Night and day

Crane patrols the downtown area on the day shift regularly. The Concord Police Department, made up of about 80 to 90 officers, bids for shifts based on seniority. After 20 years as a police officer, Crane said he is “pretty much done working in the dark.”

On the day shift, officers typically see cases of property crime, theft, shoplifting and fraud. But the nature of the calls changes quickly when the sun goes down, Crane said. The evening shift sees intoxicated individuals, noise complaints and domestic complaints, while the midnight shift frequently deals with underage parties, burglaries, car thefts and prowlers.

Over his 15 years with the Concord Police Department, Crane has worked day, evening and midnight shifts in different sections of the city. His current downtown domain, referred to as Section 7 of the city, means he deals with traffic and vehicle violations frequently.

“My main focuses are crosswalks, red lights, pedestrian safety,” he said. “I try to get five to six stops in a day. You gotta stay busy. I’m the downtown guy, there’s plenty of vehicles and that’s what I do.”

About noon, Crane stopped a woman for turning right on red at the corner of North Main and Pleasant streets. She is unfamiliar with the area and did not see the sign, she told Crane.

After running her license, Crane discovered she had no citations on her record in recent years, and he decided against issuing her a ticket.

“It’s not very busy, she didn’t see the sign, she was incredibly apologetic,” he said as he filled out paperwork on the stop. “Warning? Sure. . . . Our whole mission is to change their behavior, and I hope that would.”

But when the circumstances become potentially dangerous, he is less likely to issue only warnings. Shortly after 2 p.m., Crane was driving along Main Street again when the car in front of him sped through a crosswalk, cutting off Concord resident Tenley Callaghan and her daughter Kate while they were in the middle of crossing.

Crane pulled the driver over and issued him a ticket, and Tenley was satisfied an officer was on hand to enforce pedestrian rights.

“I feel bad for him, but he deserves a ticket for not stopping for pedestrians on Main Street,” she said. “It was a very lucky day to have the police officer there to notice someone just speeding through a crosswalk.”

Although his principal domain is the streets of downtown, the officer who covers Section 7 also serves as backup for officers in other sections of Concord. All seven of the calls Crane responded to yesterday involved working with one or more of the six other officers patrolling the streets.

At a quarter past noon, Crane assisted an officer called to investigate a picketer standing on an overpass off Exit 12 of Interstate 93. The police dispatch received a call that a male carrying a sign that read “Impeach Obama” was impeding traffic and giving drivers the finger.

And while there was a picketer on the overpass, when Crane showed up the man was not in the road or acting disorderly, and therefore was not breaking any laws.

“He said, ‘Yep, I’m picketing, and no, I don’t want to give you my name,’ and he’s right, he doesn’t have to,” Crane said after pulling away, leaving the picketer to his protesting. “He said he’s not in the roadway, he’s not blocking the sidewalk. He was very respectful, and he has the right to do that.”

“I wonder if he’s the reason everyone’s slowing down,” Crane pondered, peering down at the congested northbound lanes of I-93.

‘Community policing’

On a brief lull between calls, Crane described the “community policing” the Concord Police Department aims for. Officers often “park and talk,” leaving their car to walk through parks or along Main Street, saying hello to residents and chatting with them along the way.

Park and talks often occur when officers have lighter days and are not running around the city, Crane said.

“It’s very hard to predict, because sometimes you’re call to call to call,” he said. “But other days you could go eight hours without a call, nothing happens where they need you. That’s when your self-motivation kicks in and you stop some cars or . . . go walk downtown.”

But yesterday was just not one of those days.

At a quarter past 1, Crane reported to Morning Star Condominiums on Loudon Road for a second incident of an intoxicated male. He joined two other officers at the scene and had only been there several minutes when a call came over the radio of a child swept up in the current of the Merrimack River.

Crane jumped back in his patrol car and sped toward the river, lights flashing and siren blaring.

“Sometimes it just feels like you’re a world away,” Crane said as he pulled up at the scene minutes later.

Crane joined several other officers and members of the fire department at an entrance to the river off Second Street. The group slowly received more information about the situation as they readied a motorized raft to enter the river.

A group of people were tubing down the river from Penacook and planned to come ashore at the beach just past the Sewalls Falls Bridge, but a young girl in the party turned for the bank too late and passed it. She jumped out of her tube to swim ashore but did not make it, so her father swam after her.

Members of the fire department climbed on the raft and began traveling downstream searching for the pair. Shortly after they left, the young girl and her father walked into the hectic scene from where they came ashore farther downriver, looking wet and exhausted, but safe.

The officers notified the firefighters on the raft that the missing pair was accounted for, and the officials began to pack up their safety equipment and clear the area.

Crane grinned as he drove away from the scene.

“Like I said earlier, nothing ever happens on a holiday.”

(Mel Flanagan can be reached at 369-3321 or mflanagan@cmonitor.com.)

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