By EILEEN MCCLORY
Friday evening, the start of the weekend, is a notoriously busy time for Findlay police officers, and it was especially hectic the last two weeks.
Officers responded to multiple calls each of those Friday nights, including reports of domestic abuse, a fight, a homeless man who fell asleep in the grass outside the Trenton Avenue Walmart, and a theft complaint.
It’s all part of what Findlay police officers do in their day-to-day jobs.
“It’s never the same two days in a row,” Officer Dan Griffith said.
I rode along with two officers, Mike Cooley and Griffith, on July 27 and Aug. 3, respectively.
Fridays are known to be busy, so at least six officers have to be working on Friday nights to keep up with the calls.
On July 27, nine officers were available. On Aug. 3, there were only five officers, and a scramble ensued to find more officers to work. Eventually, enough officers were found to cover the town’s beats.
The afternoon shift starts at 3 p.m. and ends at 11 p.m. For the first hour or so, Griffith and Cooley each focused on reports.
Around 4 p.m., each finished their reports and headed out on patrol. At first, the officers handled minor complaints.
Griffith dealt with a trespassing complaint at a store, which wanted a person to not return to the store.
Cooley initially patrolled the area of College Street and West Foulke Avenue, looking for anything suspicious. This was two days after a 19-year-old Findlay man, Tyler Wilson, was fatally stabbed on College Street on July 25.
Cooley and Griffith have different backgrounds, but have ended up professionally in the same place.
Cooley is a former Army infantryman. When he got out of the service, he looked for something similar to his work when he was deployed to the Middle East. He said being a police officer seemed the most similar, though people in Findlay shoot at him less.
Cooley isn’t the only former member of the military on Findlay’s police department. There are about 10 officers who served in various branches of the military, he said.
Griffith came to the police force in a different way. He was always interested in police work, he said, but has no military background. He started taking law enforcement classes, got hired at the Findlay Police Department, and moved to Findlay from a small town south of Toledo.
On each Friday that I observed, things picked up after slow starts.
Cooley was called as a backup at a reported assault on Center Street. Police dispatch accidentally directed him to the wrong neighborhood at first, so he was the last to arrive at the scene.
Upon arriving, he jumped out of his car and ran toward the scene. A total of five officers arrived. They talked to a woman and a man who said another man had punched them. The officers also talked to witnesses.
There was yelling by the citizens and accusations. The officers tried to calm down the situation, but the accusations were still flying.
A suspect was arrested soon after Cooley arrived.
Once that happened, Cooley walked over to a neighbor’s porch, where a couple of teenage boys and their stepmother were watching, to ask if they had seen anything.
They had. They heard a beer bottle being broken on a car, and saw the car drive down an alley.
The woman thanked Cooley for arresting her neighbor, who she said has been fighting with her for a while.
While she was happy for a police presence, that is not always the case. Another person, detained for the same incident but ultimately not charged, left the police station shouting profanities.
After Cooley went back on patrol, a woman in a Toyota Highlander nearly hit Cooley’s patrol car as she turned left off of Broad Avenue onto Howard Street. He managed to turn his car so she wouldn’t hit him, then made a U-turn and pulled her over.
Cooley took a deep breath, calmly got out of his car and went to talk to her.
He cited the woman for failing to yield on a left turn, then told her, “Have a better day.”
It’s a phrase he uses often, he said, because so many people say thank you, even if they are mad because he just gave them a ticket.
The following Friday, Griffith had an entirely different problem. He was called to a report of a homeless man. The man, who has had several previous run-ins with police, had gotten drunk and fell asleep outside of Walmart, 1161 W. Trenton Ave. He had a previous trespass warning from the store.
The homeless man was arrested for criminal trespassing and put in jail for the night. It was the second trespass-related incident Griffith had dealt with that day.
Once the man was put in the Hancock County jail, Griffith had to write the report immediately.
But he took a call from another officer, Jacob Atkins, who called Griffith for advice because a teenage girl wanted to report a rape.
Griffith has been on the force for four years, but he said it still can feel weird to be a policeman.
“It’s still hard to fathom someone might try to kill me, or I might have to kill them,” he said. “It’s hard to mentally prepare for that.”