I’ve had the honor to be selected as one of 40 people who are attending and engaging with Leadership Greater Manchester class of 2019. Leadership Greater Manchester (LGM) is a program designed to recognize and nurture existing leadership talents from diverse sectors of the community. Through the exchange of viewpoints and experiences, participants are exposed to the challenges, opportunities and vital issues affecting the greater Manchester community. LGM begins in September with a two-day overnight retreat, followed by nine daylong sessions held monthly through June. Each session focuses on a new topic presented by local and state leaders, as well as experts who present issues through lectures, discussions, simulation exercises and on-site visits.
One of the days is Criminal Justice Day and part of the learning experience is a police ride-along. I had the privilege to experience my police ride-along with Officer Al Reagan of the Manchester Police Department. I’ve always had so much respect for anyone whose career is protecting the public and I now have an even greater respect and understanding of how difficult and important their occupation truly is. Al has only been a police officer for three years and is 25 years old, but wise beyond his years.
Our shift began on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. where I attended roll call. Everyone was dressed and on time as the Captain reviewed everyone’s coverage area for the second shift which ends at 11 p.m. They all examined their AR-15s and tested their tasers before getting the keys to their assigned vehicle.
Al stands at around 6-foot-5 and reminded me a lot of Rob Gronkowski so I immediately felt I was in good hands! He suited me up with a bulletproof vest and we went into the locked and gated parking lot to retrieve our vehicle.
We barely drove out of the gate before we had our first call, which was a door alarm at Central High School. We arrived at the same time as another officer (I only know her first name, Stephanie) and we all checked every door and they were locked.
We then drove around the inner city between Valley and Bridge streets. going up and down streets that I had never heard of or driven on. We rolled along with our windows down, listening, and looking up and down alleyways for anything suspicious, drugs, prostitution, or any kind of unrest. Al would wave to young kids and gave warm hellos to others just walking the street. What a fine example to set for the community that police officers are human beings and have a kind side to them that many do not appreciate.
As we turned down Hall Street we saw an unmarked law enforcement car that had pulled over a vehicle. Just as we stopped to ask if they needed assistance, they were handcuffing the man. The man appeared under the influence of some substance or alcohol. He was begging not to be arrested. Families playing in Harriman Park witnessed the incident; I felt bad for them.
We had several more minor calls which I felt didn’t demand someone calling the police. Each time we were sent to a call, there was always a second or third police officer arriving before or after us utilizing a great backup and teamwork approach. One call we had was about a dozen teenagers fighting in the streets. We arrived second and subsequently within a minute there were four law enforcement vehicles. One of them sounded the siren and the kids ran back to their homes. One of the officers said, “we just want them to get home safely and that’s all it took, was one quick siren.”
We both were getting hungry for dinner so at 6:30 p.m., I suggested we go to one of my restaurants, CJ’s Great West Grill, and enjoy a quick bite just in time to watch the Kentucky Derby. We walked into the bar area and my staff’s jaws dropped seeing me in a bulletproof vest walking with a 6-foot-5 police officer. It was quite fun. As soon as we ordered we got a call to interview someone back at the station who complained of being stalked. Duty calls so we ordered our food to go.
When we arrived at the station, we saw a young woman maybe 5 feet tall and 100 pounds, and she was absolutely terrified and shaking. Al calmly talked with her and took notes. He was very impressive in talking with her and helping her to calm down.
Similarly, we were called to a home for a suicide threat where Al did an incredible job of talking with the 14-year-old boy. On our way back to the vehicle, I complimented Al on his ability to communicate with people and how he is part psychiatrist!
As 11 p.m. approached we made our way back to the station. His computer screen showed at least two dozen more incidents that needed to be handled but that would be for the third-shift officers. We road together for eight hours and had great conversation about his life, his career and his past, including earning a Bachelor of arts degree in criminology and criminal justice in 2015 at the University of Maryland. He always knew this would be his path.
Congratulations to you, Chief Carlo Capano, and all of your officers and, in particular, Officer Al Reagan. Manchester is darn lucky to have what I would definitely refer to as Manchester’s Finest.