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Living out my childhood dream…

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By Alexander Vazquez, on July 10, 2015

Like most boys, I wanted to be a policeman or a firefighter for much of my childhood. Although I no longer have plans to become either, I relished the opportunity to live my childhood dream over the last couple weeks thanks to the ride-along opportunities part of my internship.

My first ride-along was a six-hour shift with the Durham Police Department. Even though it was a “slow” night according to the police officer, I was able to go on a number of calls that allowed me to experience the things that police officers encounter on a daily basis; I went on a call to find a missing person, I raced to a gunshot victim – which turned out to be a false alarm, I ensured that an abandoned home had not been broken into, and responded to a robbery. Although responding to all of those calls afforded me valuable insight, a call involving domestic violence proved to be the most memorable. When we arrived at the scene, the police officer had me stay in the car because he did not have full information about the situation taking place inside the house. A few moments later, he returned to the car to ask me if I spoke Spanish. The woman who called the police only spoke Spanish and her children were just learning English and therefore could not translate. Because I was able to help, I followed the officer into the home to take on the role of translator. There, I found a woman who was visibly upset. She reported that she was separating from her husband who had a violent temper and had just left the home after threatening her. Once we were back in the patrol car, the police officer told me that in their district, there is only one Spanish-speaking police officer that works their shift. I was shocked. Although I am unsure of whether this is the case during all shifts, to me, having only one Spanish-speaking officer severely limits the quality of service the department provides to Durham’s Hispanic community. When I asked the officer what he considered to be the cause of the dearth of Spanish-speaking police officers, he told me that it was probably due to the Hispanic community’s lack of interest in joining the police department. If the police officer’s assertion is true, I wondered what the City can do to change Hispanic residents’ desires. After all, having additional Spanish-speaking police officers in Durham is imperative given that the City’s Hispanic population continues to grow year after year.

My ride-along with the Fire Department was a great experience too because the firefighters quickly integrated me into their team. I started off my day by actively participating in draft-pump training activities (which was done in collaboration with the Durham County Fire Department). During our “down time,” I watched firefighters complete daily chores around the fire station, take time to maintain their physical stamina, sharpen the skills they use on the job (i.e., rope-tying), and make an effort  to develop new skills (i.e., learning Spanish). I was also able to go out on multiple calls in 100+ degree weather. I had merely walked 25 yards in a polo and khakis and I was already sweating. I could not imagine how the firefighters felt walking around under the same conditions, outfitted in their full turnout gear. Later in the day I got a sense of just that when the firefighters allowed me to put on their full gear and pull some hoses around the outside of the fire station. After just 15 minutes, I was exhausted! My favorite part of the day was speaking to one of the Captains about his work, the collaboration between the City and County Fire Departments, and some of the station’s future needs.

I have always respected the work that police officers and firefighters do, but my ride-alongs increased my admiration for them. How can you not  admire people who constantly carry out difficult work in very hectic, dangerous situations?

In the next blog post, I’ll finally let you all know what I have been working on this summer!

Innovation in Durham 3

Recent statistics indicate that obesity rates continue to rise across all ages, genders and racial/ethnic groups in Durham County:  59 percent of adults, 30 percent of high school students, and 18 percent of kindergartners are overweight or obese. Because lack of physical activity is one of the main causes of obesity, the City (working in conjunction with the County) established Bull City Play Street, an initiative that closes local roads to motor traffic and opens them to people traffic, to promote physical activity among residents. Residents are given the opportunity to partake in activities such as zumba, biking, hula hooping, and jumping rope. In addition, Bull City Play Streets enable residents to learn about healthy foods, community resources, etc. from local businesses and non-profits. Bull City Play Streets events are usually held between May and October and are coordinated out of the City’s Neighborhood Improvement Services Department.

Tags: Ride-Alongs, firefighter, police | Categories: City of Durham | 3 Comments
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3 Responses to “Living out my childhood dream…”

  1. Catherine Hughes

    You mentioned draft-pumping. Is that where they take water from a creek or river instead of a fire hydrant? I’m excited you got to do some ride-alongs and look forward to hearing more about those and other things you’ve been doing with Durham!

    • Alexander Vazquez

      Correct, that’s one type of draft-pumping. However, the training I participated in required firefighters to draft from a 3,000 gallon (!) portable tank, not from a creek or river.

      • Catherine Hughes

        Ah ok, Waynesville testing out some creek drafting during their downtown disaster drill in June!

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