A Police Officer Patrols Middletown on Halloween
MIDDLETOWN—The last day of October—Halloween—landed on a Saturday this year. The Middletown police department had extra officers on hand, expecting an action-packed evening. Officer Richard Regino, 28, pulled night shift to patrol.
Regino said Middletown police prepare for any eventuality on Halloween. Costumes, especially at night, can cause some residents to call the police. The department got a call that someone was carrying an axe, which turned out to be part of a costume. “Those are things you run into on Halloween that you don’t run into on a normal night. They are out just having a good time, trick-or-treating.”
His shift begins with a briefing from the previous shift supervisor. He hears about incidents in the previous shifts that may continue into his shift. He is told the ward he’ll cover. Tonight, Regino will patrol the second ward. Although he can patrol throughout the city, “each day you get assigned a ward and that’s the ward you are responsible for. That’s where your main focus is.” The briefing ends with a little pep talk to be safe.
Regino’s vehicle for the night is #14, a Ford Taurus, equipped with a plastic backseat “so people can’t hide anything under the seats” and bars on the backseat windows. The trunk holds several bags: a deployment sack with first aid equipment and extra ammunition, a Sharpe’s container for disposing of needles and syringes, his personal pack, and snacks.
Settling in for the last three hours of a shift that ends at midnight, Regino monitors the mobile data terminal next to him, a “fancy computer” that can handle whatever comes up. The terminal does a boatload of tasks. It runs checks on license plates and outstanding warrants, and even writes traffic tickets. A small printer between the front seats prints the tickets on site. His two-way radio communicates with dispatch and a scanner scans licenses and vehicle registrations.
He cracks open the windows on both sides of his car to hear what’s going on outside which he calls “a safety thing that makes me comfortable.”
Rounding a street, Regino hears dispatch say a group of young males were on the street. There had been reports of “egging houses,” which was somewhat expected on Halloween. The kids who might have been egging have fled. Regino drives around the area. He hopes they’ve gone home.
Regino said officers are prepared for incidents the evening before as well as Halloween night. The department usually gets busy answering calls, the majority related to juveniles. Tonight he expects pranks like egging and toilet-papering houses, “the typical stuff you would expect on a shift night on Halloween.”
Dispatch says a caller describes the eggers as wearing grey sweaters. The city has a nine o’clock curfew for anyone under 16, although there is some leeway tonight with trick-or-treaters. Other officers on duty have found some teens walking around. They will take the teens home and probably have a conversation with their parents about why they were violating the curfew.
At a corner, Regino allows a group of youngsters across the street. He observes the group. “The two older kids in the front are probably around 16 or 17—if they weren’t there and you had the group of other kids around 10 or 12 years old—we would stop them. We’d talk to them and find out where they live, get their names, and get a hold of their parents.”
He drives up Highland Avenue, a major street that goes through the city. The street does not have problems. The YMCA, an Elks Lodge, larger private homes. An officer’s voice over the radio spells out names.
Dispatch tells Regino someone got locked out of their car. He drives into an apartment complex and sees two young women without warm clothing standing near an SUV. He turns the police car so lights shine on the SUV. He takes out a rod and wedge and pushes them under the window.
A conversation with the car owner reveals that a friend left the keys in her purse—in the SUV. The young woman waited before calling the police for help. “We weren’t sure if you guys did it.” After a few tries, the door opens. The owner of the car eyes the wedge with interest. “Do they sell those?” as she points to the wedge. “They do,” Regino says. “…to police.”
This was Regino’s third lockout of the day. He says it happens more in winter when people warm up their car and lock the keys inside. Wedges and rods have replaced Slim Jims to open newer models with digital locks.
Regino gets a call to come back to headquarters, “14370.” He listens to all calls whether to headquarters or to a scene. “You’re always knowing what’s going on, and what everyone is dealing with.” Everyone on patrol is ready to go to another officer’s aid.
A young Latino woman waiting in the lobby wants to report unwanted phone calls. In an interview room with the door open, she tells Regino that someone calls her and doesn’t speak. She says she has been getting calls for months, sometimes as many as three in an hour, 60 a week. She believes it’s her baby’s father who she is no longer with.
Since the caller has not made any threats, it’s not considered harassment. The young woman appears relieved to place her problem in Regino’s hands. Regino doesn’t speak Spanish, but several officers on the force can work with people who speak only Spanish.
The incident doesn’t end with the interview. He completes the report online before returning to his beat. The case will be listed as police information, not harassment. Once the report is filed, the incident may be followed up by a detective if necessary.
Back on his beat, Regino checks out Fancher-Davidge Park. Three deer are sitting on the grass near the pond, “chillin.” Toward the woods two bucks are grazing.
Fewer people walk the streets as the evening nears twelve. Some adult revelers stand about on Main Street downtown.
Regino sees a parked police car. The officer is on foot patrol as extra support for the night. On some nights, Regino will get out and do foot patrol to “make sure everything is on the up-and-up, [and] mingle with the community.”
Regino has seen the gamut of incidents from traffic stops to homicides. He says he has done arrests for possession of narcotics, larcenies, and assaults. He’s broken up fights of large groups. He’s never been involved in a shooting. “You hope you go your whole career and never have to go through that.”
He caught one store robbery in process. A person was trying to escape by climbing out of a store window. He broke the window and was climbing out just as Regino and another officer were driving by.
Regino says he always wanted to be a cop. “As a kid, you play, you dress up on Halloween. I always wanted to be a cop.” He says he could never work behind a desk. His job is never boring. “One day you could be doing drug arrests, the next day you could be helping people unlock their cars.”
Regino was a paramedic for three years before he joined the force and says that training comes in handy in police work.
A Slow Night
As his shift winds down, Regino heads back to headquarters around 11:45. “Halloween night on a Saturday night. You would think it would be busy.”
His shift is over and Officer Regino closes out a very uneventful Halloween. He can go home to his eight-year-old German Shepherd, Vito, and to a family who is glad he is home.
His family understands the responsibilities and stress of the job and, like anyone else, he is part of the community. “We have families, spouses, kids, and moms and dads, siblings. We are normal people. It’s our job. Do we care about it? Yeah. We still have our lives outside of here.”
To contact this reporter, please email email@example.com.