Log in

A Friday Night Ride-Along in Apopka


Observations from an Apopka Police Department patrol shift.


"Please take care of my Dad." Those were the words spoken to me by Apopka Police Captain Randy Fernandez's 9-year old son, Asa.

Fernandez and I had been planning an evening ride-along for some time. When we agreed earlier in the week to do it on Friday July 9th, neither of us had any idea that we would be patrolling Apopka less than 24 hours after the Dallas police shooting that saw five officers killed and 6 others wounded.

Was I a bit apprehensive? Absolutely. But how often would this opportunity present itself? I was determined to not allow a terrorist act change my plans.

As our "shift" began we spoke with a young women who had brought her three young children to hand-deliver cards of appreciation to the Apopka Police Department. Officer Danielle Saslo gave them a quick tour and let the oldest turn on her patrol car's lights.

From 4:30 PM to 12:30 AM we roamed the streets of Apopka. We responded to a few of the incidents reported by or assigned by Dispatch to one of the 8 patrol officers on duty.

But our first encounter was with a driver who made an illegal left turn onto Main Street. Within a minute of pulling the driver over we were joined by another patrol officer. I quickly learned that was the protocol. At least two officers responded to nearly every call for service. Does it really take two officers to issue a traffic violation? Well, no, as long as the driver answers the officer's questions and complies with the officer's requests.

More about that later...

Gone are the days when there are two officers in each patrol car. It is much more efficient to have one officer per car. But, in the interest of officer safety other officers will respond as backup. The backups leave only when it is clear that officer safety will not be compromised.

The Stops:

Illegal left hand turn

Two car accident without injuries in front of the VFW

Speeding violation on 441 west of Sheeler

Medical emergency involving a homeless man at the Main Street Walgreen's. Apopka paramedics took the man to Florida Hospital Apopka. Officer Charlie White transported the man's worldly goods to the same destination in his APD pickup. Officer White also updated me regarding a strangely parked car reported in my neighborhood a month ago.

Domestic dispute between two ex's

We stopped by the Communications Center where Lead Communications Technician Billy Bryant briefed me on the technology and the challenges the dispatchers face during their long shifts.

It was a fairly typical Friday night, according to 29-year veteran Sergeant Carlos Joseph. Towards the end of the shift he and I spoke at length. While briefing his shift earlier he told his officers they needed to put the events in Dallas "out of their heads" and focus on their job; Protecting and serving the people of Apopka. He emphasized the word "serving."

"We are in the service business," said Carlos. "Yes, we protect, but every contact we make is also a service call."

The Apopka Police Department responds to over 1,000 "calls for service" every week, according to the Department's weekly activity report.

Joseph told me about two traffic stops he had made in the hours after the Dallas police shootings. At one a 17-year old girl thanked him for his service and asked him to be safe. At the other three young women told him they were praying for him and the other Apopka police officers.

The final stop of the night involved a driver who ran a stop sign. Rather than pull over, he proceeded to drive to his house where he then refused to provide Officer Ashley Eller with an ID. He also refused to get out of his car when asked. He and his female passenger insisted that he had done nothing wrong. As time went on the volume of their objections increased.

I was observing this conflict from about 40 feet away, but the increasing tension was obvious. As I looked around I realized that the street was totally dark except for the lights from the patrol cars. Surely there were people in these houses watching. My thoughts went to Dallas. Because of the situation, there were several officers on the scene. What if...?

In the end the driver was extracted from the vehicle, handcuffed, and placed in the backseat of a patrol car. He ultimately produced his ID and was released.


When Asa asked me to take care of his Dad my reply was, "I'll do my best."

A better response to Asa and all of the children of police officers is this; "Thank you for allowing your Moms and Dads to keep me and the rest of Apopka safe."



No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here