Safe at night

Policing Estherville at night has a different energy from daytime, local officers say. A Friday night ride along was full of that energy

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Estherville police officer Jacob Hinrickson has been on the job for a year an a half. Police work, however, is not new to him. His father was police chief in Pocahontas when Hinrickson was growing up, and he shared fond memories of the old Crown Victoria squad car parked at his house. Hinrickson took advantage of dual credit classes and graduated with a degree in criminal justice from University of Northern Iowa in three years. He wanted to come back to north Iowa, and the offer from the Estherville Police Department made it happen.
Hinrickson said he enjoys small-town policing because of the pace.
“Most people respect us, we respect them, so it works out really well,” Hinrickson said.
One of the interests Hinrickson has in police work is the technical side. “We work with multiple programs. When dispatch puts out a call over the radio, we can open our laptops and see more information as well as the location. We have access to the state system, so if we pull someone over, we can see if there is an Attempt to Locate from another county on the multi-agency network,” Hinrickson said.
Night policing consists of checking businesses and having a presence in the business districts late at night to stop or ideally, deter theft, Hinrickson said.
Around 6:30 p.m., Hinrickson drives toward a location west of the Fourth Street Bridge where dispatch has received multiple calls on a black pickup driving recklessly in the area. Before he arrives at the area, he spots a black pickup traveling on West North First Street toward Woody’s Pizza. He follows the vehicle east on Central Ave., but finding no reason to pull them over, turns around.
Back downtown by 6:53, Hinrickson spots a green pickup with no plates and puts on his lights. The driver pulls over into a driveway on the south side of Estherville, and Hinrickson approaches the vehicle. Sgt. Cory Danner arrives on the scene where Hinrickson has discovered the driver has a bill of sale, but it has no date, and there is no date on the title. There’s no proof of insurance. Three family members exit the house with oven mitts and barbecue aprons on as they were grilling burgers. The driver had pulled into his own driveway.
At 7:05 p.m., Officer Hinrickson prints a citation for no insurance from the vehicle, and the driver has a choice of paying the citation to the clerk of court or appearing in court in a few weeks.
At 7:07, Sgt. Danner leaves. Hinrickson said he gave the driver a break, in hopes he would get his paperwork straightened out. He said Sgt. Danner had helped explain to the driver what he needed to do to have his recently-purchased vehicle in compliance.
Also at 7:07, a call came in from dispatch about a suicidal female individual with an Estherville address out in the county. With one deputy currently located in Estherville, Hinrickson stayed near a road to that area in case the deputy needed more help.
Hinrickson said another technical feature that helps officers is the coordination between the in-car and body camera. As soon as Hinrickson flips on his flashing lights the dash camera comes on.
As he pulled over into the Estherville United Methodist Church to finish the paperwork for the last call, Hinrickson said the rumor that officers have a quota of tickets to write is false. Quotas are illegal in Iowa, for one thing, he said. Estherville police officers have discretion at every stop, allowing them to make their best assessment of each individual situation.
At 7:12, Hinrickson returns to the Fourth Street Bridge area to provide extra patrol due to a report that a reckless vehicle ran the stop sign at the top of the hill.
One thing Hinrickson said he likes about night shift is that every night is different.
“One night, I might be planning to catch up on reports during what could be a slow night, and I get call to call to call all night long. It’s never the same thing twice. Anything can happen,” Hinrickson said.
At 7:32, a call comes in requesting first responders for a woman at an assisted living center who is having trouble breathing.
“We have a full medical bag and AED in the back,” Hinrickson said.
Estherville officers are trained as first responders in part because Estherville Ambulance EMTs and firefighters are volunteer and take longer to respond as they must first report to their stations.
At 7:35 p.m., Hinrickson is headed into the building with the medical bag. At 7:36, Sgt. Danner arrives to assist. While Hinrickson and Danner are inside, at 7:38, a page comes for county to respond to Eagle Grove cottage at Forest Ridge for a fight in progress.
At 7:41 p.m., Estherville Ambulance arrives.
At 7:42 p.m, dispatch updates the call to indicate Forest Ridge may have at least one female on the run.
At 7:46, Hinrickson returns to the vehicle and says about the woman in the assisted living center, “She’s okay. If you’re talking, you’re breathing.”
Hinrickson is trained as an EMR responder, more highly trained to deal with airway and bleeding issues until EMTs arrive.
At 7:50 p.m., dispatch said Forest Ridge could be missing six juveniles.
Hinrickson said the AED in his vehicle is new, maybe a month old.
“We always have AEDs and full medical bags and are able to provide care. Some officers have EMT abilities, too,” Hinrickson said.
At 8:05 p.m, Hinrickson stops a silver Chevrolet on Central Ave. in front of the former Estherville Drug because of a taillight and headlight out. Hinrickson approaches the passenger side. The 18-year-old driver has no driver’s license with them. Everything checks out upon running their plates, and dispatch indicates they have had a warning about the taillight before. Hinrickson gives the driver another warning, and tells the driver to drive safely.
“At any scene, I can turn on the scene light and the LED light bank, but in town we have to be careful not to blind other drivers. Those are usually reserved for night stops on a side street when we think something is going down, or we have no way to know,” Hinrickson said. The lights allow Hinrickson to illuminate the entire vehicle, useful if he likes a vehicle for drugs, a person with a warrant, or additional criminal activity.
There are three ways someone can give officers their identification when they don’t have an ID card on them: social security number, name and date of birth, or driver’s license number. Hinrickson said name and date of birth is usually sufficient. If an officer suspects the person has not given them the right name, or the ID card belongs to another person, the social security number can be an indication, as most people can rattle off the holder’s name and address, especially if they are using a relative’s ID, but inventing a social security number on the spot is more difficult.
At 8:45 p.m., Sgt. Danner asks Hinrickson to bring the night vision camera to his location. Danner has located in the area of the numerous reckless driving and stop sign violations near the Fourth Street Bridge. Hinrickson returns to the police station and opens a hallway storage closet where a large case holds the night vision equipment.
“We tend to use the specialty equipment when we can in order to become familiar with it. Instead of pulling officers for trainings on it, though that also happens, we use it in the field and then there’s at least some officers familiar with using things we don’t necessarily need every day,” Hinrickson said.
Hinrickson delivers the night vision case to Sgt. Danner at 8:52 p.m.
“I’ve seen a lot of cars go by, but no one has run that stop sign or driven recklessly on the hill,” Sgt. Danner said.
At 9 p.m., Hinrickson drives to A20 and 375th Street where Sgt. Danner has pulled over a driver he followed west for two miles. Before Hinrickson reaches the location, Danner calls a ten-two (10-2) for all is good. The driver was speeding, but told Danner his GPS said the speed limit was 55 in that area. Danner had the driver demonstrate this fact by driving ahead of him, and ultimately released the driver.
At 9:08 p.m., dispatch reports an individual on the south side of Estherville has called 911 stating they are having suicidal thoughts, and has a plan, but is not sharing the plan with dispatch. Hinrickson and Danner meet at the house where they speak to the person who answers the door. That person says they “haven’t been able to talk to him.”
At 9:12 p.m., Danner and Hinrickson go into the house. At 9:24 p.m. they exit the house with the person who answered the door and another individual. Sgt. Danner transports the individual to Avera Holy Family hospital. Both police vehicles reach Avera’s emergency room entrance at 9:25.
Hinrickson said he responds to about two mental health issues per week, suicidal individuals a couple of times per month. He said the individual at the home was a friend or family member wishing to help the individual.
“I think it’s good that the person reached their hand out for help, and we can help them take the next step forward and get more help.”
Hinrickson and Danner went into the admitting area to help the individual get admitted. Danner stayed with the individual so they wouldn’t be alone while they waited.
“[Danner] will wait there with them, talk to them, until they are handed off to nurses and we hope get help and treatment from there. I hope people know that if they don’t like or don’t respond to the treatment they are given, they should come back to us. We can refer them to Seasons Center— to other places. We don’t want them to give up,” Hinrickson said.
At 9:31, a call came in over concerns with underage drinkers at an apartment complex on Second Ave. South. Not seeing or hearing anyone outside, Hinrickson entered the building to look and listen.
At 9:37 p.m., he returned to the vehicle and told dispatch he did not hear or see anything actionable inside.
Hinrickson wanted to return to Avera to check on the individual with suicidal thoughts from the earlier call.
With that, the ride along ended.

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