Officer Ashley Poellnitz spotted the brown Toyota run a stop sign and take off in a hurry. She sped after the offender and flashed her blue lights on Green Springs Avenue. When the car came to a stop in front of her, she called in the tag number with confidence mixed with anticipation. Pulling over a motorist is one of the most dangerous events for a police officer.
She walked over to the car's open window staying a couple of feet behind. After she obtained the driver's license and registration, she walked back to her car, the entire time glancing backward.
"You never know when the situation will go sideways, and you have to be on your toes the entire time," Poellnitz said. She proceeded to write the speeding warning. "I'm letting them go with a warning since their record was clean."
The ten-hour shift for Officer Poellnitz and all 83 officers in the Homewood Police Department includes many tasks, including driving around in their assigned areas and keeping a watch on things.
Sgt. John Carr is the immediate supervisor for Officer Poellnitz. "Homewood is an interesting town. We have around 25,000 residents, but that number goes up to 125,000 during the day. It's a commuter city, and that draws in many people," Sgt. Carr said. "We get a lot of property crimes like vehicle and residential robberies. Crime goes in waves, but our officers are always ready."
Officer Poellnitz has been in the Homewood Police Department since 2004. She just returned to patrol after spending five years as a Resource Officer at Homewood Middle School. Liking all facets of her job, she mostly appreciates helping the citizens.
"I have loved it more than I expected. It's been a great career. Most calls turn out ok, but you never walk away from a bad call and think, ‘today was a good day’. When you help a citizen, it feels rewarding," Poellnitz said. "Being a School Resource Officer was incredibly gratifying. We talked to the kids all day, and they asked about life decisions. I made wonderful relationships at the school."
After returning to patrol this past January, she was assigned the area of downtown Homewood along with a few residential streets to keep safe.
"On occasion, I’ll walk downtown and talk to the shop owners. It's good to let them know we're out here," Poellnitz said. "I like patrolling my neighborhood and knowing that when I go home, I did my best."
Most days, Officer Poellnitz does not encounter any dangerous situations, but she does find herself in the middle of one occasionally.
"About ten years ago, I got a domestic call that a male has stabbed his girlfriend. I was pulling up into the parking lot when I saw this van pull out in a hurry. I followed him, and he took off. I was in a chase all by myself. He wrecked, and we began a foot chase. Then he crossed train tracks and barely got away. We did catch him later," Poellnitz said. "When you're by yourself like that, it can be tense. I had called for backup, but I was moving too fast for them to catch up.”
Officer Poellnitz has had to pull her gun plenty of times, and she's been in fights where the suspects try to flee. Trained well in garbling and other ways to subdue an assailant, she encounters about fifteen to twenty physical altercations a year. On top of things, being a female results in the assailants thinking they can win. Thankfully, she has spent plenty of training hours taking on much bigger guys.
"It comes with being a female; many suspects try to get out while I'm arresting them. When I train, I ask to test on the biggest guy in the class. Women have better luck with ground grabbling, but I have been struck a few times, once resulting in a concussion," Poellnitz said.
The thought of preventing crime is always on her mind. "One of my first years as a School Resource officer, I found some classrooms doors that opened out, where students would not be able to barricade in case of an intruder. I asked the Homewood Police Foundation to buy lockdown bars for those doors," Poellnitz said. "The Homewood Police Foundation is there to support the police department. They do a great job in helping us every year with many projects."
One of the most challenging tasks Officer Poellnitz encounters is dealing with victims. "They have trained us to treat each victim like a family member. It may be the tenth call we get during a day, and we may be worn out by then, but it's their first. I've always tried to think of that.”
A voice blared through Officer Poellnitz's car radio about a robbery in her area. The call was near the end of her shift and her nineteenth for the day, but she was well aware that it was the victim's first.