Day in the life of a police officer

Explore what happens in the front seat of a police car for one day


Jacoy Willis

Officer Gary Zornes sits in his police cruiser, ready for action. He has served in the force for 34 years and hopes to continue for at least two more before retiring.

Jacoy Willis, Editor-in-Chief

Police officers have a lot of responsibility, both on and off the clock. Recently, Kenmore police officer Gary Zornes took me on a four-hour ride-along to observe what it would be like to be a police officer. The first thing I realized was that the job is different than what you see on TV.

“This job can be difficult because sometimes you arrest the same guy four or five times,” Zornes said. “It can feel like you aren’t making a change.”

Shortly after pulling a truck over for running a red light, we made another stop at the Safeway in Kenmore. At the store, a boy had tried to smuggle 44 ounces of alcohol out the front doors with the bottle stuffed in his pants. The boy was charged with trespassing.

Calls to stop troubled teenagers are not ideal to Zornes, but they are part of his job. Even though he likes his job as a patrol officer, he would rather be going on more pleasant calls.

“I would prefer to change little old ladies’ tires on the freeway, but that doesn’t always happen,” Zornes said.

One aspect of the job Zornes does enjoy is working as a school resource officer at Inglemoor. For six hours, three times a week, Zornes spends his time talking to students and staff. He has been a resource officer for twenty of the twenty-one years the program has been in place.

“It helps the kids and even the staff to get to know an officer,” Zornes said.

Even though Zornes is almost always happy and friendly, the job can take an emotional toll.

“It’s a highly stressful job,” Zornes said. “And officers are human, too.”

Law enforcement is seen as one of the most dangerous professions because of the way it is portrayed on TV and it is true as real officers can get injured, too.

While officers are specially trained to anticipate risks during their extensive training, the job can still surprise the best officers.

Shortly before it was time for me to leave, Zornes explained to me how he and other officers stay safe.

“Officers are trained in general defense tactics such as breaking up street fights, artillery and verbal judo,” Zornes said.

Mere minutes after I departed with Zornes, another officer’s safety was compromised. Zornes informed me the next day that a boy had been shooting paintballs at passing cars and when an officer went to stop him, the boy shot the officer in the leg with a real gun. The boy then sped off in his car and Zornes was on the chase. The officers eventually stopped the boy with road spikes and the shot officer recovered.

“You never know what could happen moment to moment,” Zornes said. “That’s what makes it an interesting job.”