By Raymond Page
News Desk Chief
It was Saturday, February 21, 11:20 p.m., and I was about to embark on a wild and exciting adventure, voluntarily spending an evening with a policeman, patrolling the mean streets of Binghamton on the graveyard shift. “I must be crazy,” I thought to myself, “but here goes nothing.” With reluctance, I kissed my girlfriend goodnight, grabbed my keys, pet the pups and headed for the door; and while this was far from my first weekend spent in the company of police, it was however, the first occasion that I was actually welcomed as an invited guest as opposed to the possible alternative; and believe me when I tell you, the distinction is not so subtle. I’ll take handshakes over handcuffs any day.
So this was my first “ride-along,” as commonly referred to by law enforcement agencies nationwide. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why would I ever do this? Well, I assure you that the cause was a practical and worthy endeavor. Interning at Binghamton University, I am part of a small group of students seeking to improve off-campus safety, while raising awareness and acting as an intermediary of sorts in an effort to forge a means of communication between the Binghamton Police Dept., the University Police Dept., and the student body.
Upon my arrival I was prompted to sign a waiver, and although I did not read it thoroughly, I suspect that it constituted a forfeiture of rights to some extent, legally declaring that I will not sue the department for injury sustained, with the added stipulation that I promise not to manifest as a demonic entity or infuriated apparition, vengefully haunting members of the department in the unfortunate event of my untimely demise.
Okay, so it probably didn’t say anything like that, but all jokes aside, I was fully aware of the risks as I anxiously slipped on my bullet proof vest, fastened the Velcro straps and put my game face on. It was go-time and I was ready to rock.
And so it began…
The first 30 minutes flew by without a hitch. We cruised the streets of downtown Binghamton with a watchful eye. But the night was young and it was only a matter of time before we received our first call, which was in response to a domestic violence claim on Clarke Street. We arrived on scene to find a young woman standing outside of her apartment, sockless, donning a tank top and pajama pants, visibly hysterical, shivering and scared. She claimed to have been assaulted by her boyfriend, adding that he may have been intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol. As to be expected, the boyfriend was non compliant with the officers, completely uncooperative to say the least. He carried on about his constitutionally protected freedoms that, “according to him,” were being violated. But from my perspective, that was grossly inaccurate. What I witnessed was three well-tempered professionals trying to diffuse a situation with an enraged and unruly suspect.
The next transmission was a radio dispatch, deploying all local units to Rutherford Street in response to an anonymous tip regarding the suspicion of a possible gunshot. The response was impressive. Racing to the scene, sirens blaring, weaving in and out of traffic and dodging clueless motorists along the way, the immediacy of the situation was palpable. We combed the dimly lit streets with extreme caution in search of a potential suspect. But this effort was to no avail. Whatever had allegedly transpired was over and not a creature was stirring.
But the thrill of the hunt had been exhilarating. If you’ve ever witnessed a school of piranha attack, you know what I mean. The bait hits the water and the piranha instinctually bind together acting as one solitary unit, striking in a combined effort to eliminate their prey. Maneuvering through the inherent uncertainty of their tumultuous environment, they glide with a calculated precision and deliberate intensity, effortless and unilaterally, up until the moment that it’s time to attack. At this point their efforts are intuitively synchronized, with one common characteristic among them: Kill or be killed. Now, needless to say, this was a very memorable display, demonstrating the collaborative strength in numbers. It was synergy at its best.
As the evening concluded, and the clock was nearing 2 a.m., we received one final call. A fight had broken out on the corner of Main and Oak Street. A bloodied suspect stood alongside his girlfriend in front of Binghamton High School and was questioned by officers. Refusing to wait for medical personnel, who were already dispatched and en route, the suspect became increasingly aggressive, asserting his rights and demonstrating uncooperative behavior. I kept thinking how humorous it was. When confronted by police, suddenly, everyone becomes a lawyer. It’s quite an impressive metamorphosis. All of a sudden the entire population is qualified to practice law, fully equipped with a juris doctorate, and an expansive wealth of knowledge as it pertains to legality with respect to the infringement of their collective rights. I still can’t decide if these people are annoying or outright comical. But the saga continues. The suspect eventually fled the scene, evading the officer and leaving his girlfriend behind to fend for herself.
Five minutes later, he returned, but this was a serious mistake. He should have left well enough alone, as this action would prove to ruin his evening in a big way. Swatting at an officer’s hand, the suspect was tackled to the ground and cuffed. Now, I don’t believe that he purposefully assaulted the officer with malicious intent, however, his body language was hostile and his movements were aggressive. Police do not know what a person is capable of. This is expressly why they must be prepared to protect themselves at all times and by all means necessary. Unfortunately, this young man learned that lesson the hard way.
During the altercation, one of the officers sustained a finger injury. The young man was taken into custody and charged with both obstructing governmental administration in the 2nd degree and resisting arrest. The suspect and his girlfriend are current Binghamton University students.
As a notable mention, these two “partygoers” had come from an annual publication party, which was hosted by a very well known, reputable and respected journalism outlet on the BU campus, and while I can drop a dime, I apologize, but I just can’t give you the whole dollar. Rules are rules and specification was expressly prohibited by the BPD.
Additional details may be obtained by submitting a request through the Freedom of Information Act. As a journalist, I report the news in a factual and detail-oriented fashion, bound by an oath of integrity and non-partisan objectivity, devoid of personal perspective, passion or prejudice. However, this is not a news story, as it is rooted in personal experience and written in the first person narrative.
Acting in accordance with the wishes of the Binghamton Police Department, as per their request for anonymity–which included all parties involved–specific details regarding identity, case numbers, addresses or identifiable criteria of any kind has been purposefully omitted.
As a Binghamton University student, residing off-campus in the downtown region, I assure you that personal safety should never be taken for granted. It is imperative that students remain cautious and fully cognizant of their surroundings at all times. The presumption of safety is an illusion and the police can only do so much to ensure your wellbeing. When possible, it is advisable to walk in groups of three or more. Keep headphones off; keep to visible, well-lit areas and maintain a safe distance from shrubbery and bushes, particularly in dark and desolate conditions. Inform friends of your whereabouts and intended destination when traveling locally, on foot or otherwise. When approaching your vehicle, exercise caution, carrying your keys in hand. Students are well advised to walk with a whistle and or pepper spray to be used as protection in the event of an attack. But most importantly, use your common sense and employ sound judgment while enjoying an evening off campus. Life is a precious a gift; it is fragile and irreplaceable. Please, do not take it for granted.