By Joe Jarosz
July 16, 2014
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – On the morning of June 27, 2014, I began to get nervous.
This sensation wasn’t stemming from not getting a story done, but that the idea of a story I’d be working on later that day. For five hours, I was going to ride along with a Kansas City, Mo., police officer.
As someone who generally covers the darker side of what the KCPD respond to, I was worried. Just days earlier, 10-Sector (also known as the Northeast’s coverage are for the East Patrol Division), had an officer involved shooting. Shootings and violent crimes are more common here than where I came from in Iowa. When I participated in a ride along with my last newspaper, the only thing I had to worry about was the weather as it was a particularly stormy night.
But my nerves slowly subsided as I met, and spoke with, the officer I was to be paired with for the late afternoon/early evening ride; officer Kenny Allen, a 15-year veteran with the KCPD. Allen has been with East Patrol Division since joining in 1999. He was born in England and grew up on a farm in Missouri. He moved to Kansas City when he joined the force.
The first rush I get during our afternoon together comes when he pulls out of a gas station parking lot. He asks if I have my seatbelt on before turning on his sirens and heading towards a potential domestic dispute. By the time we arrive, the couple had already gone their separate ways. We then turn our attention to Central High School, where someone informed the KCPD about a potential fight. With several cars and officers already on scene, we park to keep watch.
During the afternoon, multiple conversational topics come up, such as why he joined the KCPD – “if not me [to protect people] then who?” – and the difference between the department in 1999 and 2014. It’s surprisingly similar to what newspapers are going through, as there is a shift to get more technologically caught-up with the world from both parties.
The ride along ends as we act as the diverting traffic car for a collision near 12th Street and Topping Avenue. We talked about movies and traveling, in between residents asking if they could pass or how serious the accident was. Before the day ended, though, I got to see Allen interact with area veterans who were down on their luck and a group of homeless people off of Independence Avenue. My biggest take away from those interactions was how respectful he was to everyone.
At the beginning of our day together, he joked that the KCPD should have paired me with someone more optimistic. But throughout the day, he spoke to people as if he was longtime friends with them, even if he was meeting them for the first time. I don’t think I could have been paired with a better officer. I learned more about the Northeast, but was also reminded that cops are not out to get us. They’re there to help, despite what we see in movies or on television.