After a phone call on a Saturday to Capt. Mark Gagan of the Richmond Police Department, I got green light to ride along a police officer of central Richmond any day of the following week.
Imagine my excitement!
Police Officer Matthew Stonebraker accepted the assignment and picked me up at Bart that Thursday.
He drove my around for over four hours and gave me a very interesting view of the city… Not only because he has seen it with the eyes of a police officer for the past five and a half years, but because he was born and raise in the city. “I was the only white kid in the block,” he said.
Stonebraker left Richmond for the first time when he was 15, but always knew he wanted to come back.
It wasn’t until after he had served on the military that he decided to become a police officer. “I know the people and the city, it makes my job so much easier,” he said.
“I wanted to come back and help,” Stonebraker said. “You can make a difference in this city when you talk to the community members and they can tell you what they want to see better.” he added.
On a regular day, Stonebraker would get to the office and change in the lockers into his uniform. Then, he would hit the streets.
Usually officers ride alone, unless they have a special assignment.
“The first thing you do is look at the computer and find what is happening in your beat,” Stonebraker explained. His beat is number 5, or Central Richmond.
But, not every day an officer gets to do follow up on the things that are placed in the computer. “This city can be so busy sometimes that you have to go from call to call,” he said.
Stonebraker explained how much effort he puts on getting to know the names of those that are “problematic.” He thinks that if they know that police knows them by name and address, they might be less willing to commit a crime. “This people are in survival mode,” he explained.
I had a very enlightening afternoon thanks to officer Stonebraker. He showed me Richmond. He showed me the good, like a community that recently started a neighborhood garden; he showed me the bad, like a street intersection called “The Murder Block;” he showed me where he grew up, he showed me his Hood.