Can any officer respond to any call? Like, can the campus officer respond to a robbery or a murder?
Mostly yes. There are officers who have certain specialties (for example, negotiation) and they might be called in specifically. An officer who is assigned to a specific location like a school would probably only be called away from duty for an emergency or if other officers were all tied up on other calls. But when the campus officer isn’t on campus, he is on all kinds of calls in the community. Also, Sergeants (who oversee patrol officers) are required to be on site for certain kinds of calls (if there is a death, a mental health issue, etc).
I want to know what they're thinking — are they just cruising around looking for trouble? Thinking, "What groups should we go mess with?" What is their objective for the day?
Dispatchers who work at the APD HQ take 911 calls from the public (my neighbors house alarm is going off, my husband is attacking me, I just saw a robbery take place at 711, etc.) while police officers are riding around in their patrol cars. Most of the time, officers are just doing what the dispatchers say, so they might not have a larger goal in mind. For example, as soon as “Officer Mike” starts his shift and gets into his car, he might get the dispatcher calling, “Officer Mike, we have a reported car theft at 153 Park Street” so he heads there to deal with that. Once he finishes, the dispatcher might send him to a call of a drunk person breaking bottles on Webster Street - so he goes to deal with that right after.
If an officer isn’t assigned to a call, then they might just drive around in the area they are assigned to. During those times, a police officer is expected to be busy - so they might conduct some traffic stops (stopping speeders, etc.) or they might ride into areas where there are often crimes on their beat (the part of town they are assigned to patrol that day) and just keep an eye out for anything suspicious (look at these two people arguing, does it look like there is an issue there?... Look at this car with no plates, let’s take a look at the driver, etc...).
But also, police officers seem to be just like anyone else. When there isn’t a call to respond to, they might be texting with other officers about something funny they heard at the morning meeting, or they’ll stop for a cup of coffee to wake up a bit and chat with the people in line.
How many become officers for the salary? How many want to uphold justice? How many want to give back to their community? Like what motivates them on the day to day to be an officer?
A tough question to answer because officers have many reasons for becoming an officer. I will say, this seems like a really hard and dangerous job, so it is hard to imagine anyone wanting to do this JUST for the salary. Most officers I’ve interviewed have cited wanting to help people as a major reason for getting into policing. BUT, officers do make a lot of money (even lower ranking officers can easily make over $100,000 a year - that is certainly more money than I have ever made in a year), so I am sure that salary plays a big role in motivating people to go into (and continue) a difficult and dangerous job.
Do any APD officers have a history of violence, a history of aggression, of police brutality? Are they psychologically unstable, are they just that kind of person that goes around, looking for trouble, trying to bust this kid for nothing?
This question is hard to answer without a lot of very in-depth interviews. I will say, there are several officers who come from a military background, some who have seen combat. Beyond that, all the officers that I have talked to have seen and dealt with things horrible enough to justify “trauma” or “vicarious trauma,” to use the words of one officer. One important thing to note is that there is not a staff position for a mental health worker at the APD. However, the city of Alameda does offer an Employee Assistance Program. The Alameda Police Department also offers a Peer Support Program, led in conjunction with a contracted clinician, to offer support to improve outcomes for personnel and the community.
From an officer:
“I think it is important to point out that police work, like any profession, has a variety of personalities with different backgrounds and coping mechanisms that might contribute to aggressive behavior or mental health issues. The hiring process is vigorous and includes a full background investigation, polygraph test, and psychological evaluation aimed to select individuals who possess the important characteristics of mental and physical resiliency, integrity, fairness, and good decision-making. The nature of the job exposes police personnel to a lot of stress and trauma, which can had a negative impact on their professional and personal lives.”
Does probable cause differ from officer to officer? What do they see that makes them suspicious?
For a police officer to stop someone and ask them questions, the police do not need a justification. This is called a “consensual contact.” A consensual contact might happen if you meet the description of someone they are looking for, or just because a police officer is suspicious or curious about you and your activities, or because they want to chat.
Once you are in a consensual contact, you are free to ignore the officer or simply walk away, you are not required to engage at all. However, if a police officer sees something that gives them “reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot,” then this consensual contact can turn into a “detention.” If you are detained, that means you are not free to leave, it means you must submit to a pat down or full search.
From what I understand, “Reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot” is what creates probable cause in this instance. It has a single definition, but unfortunately, it is pretty vague to a layman and open to interpretation in court. For example, if an officer is trained to recognize drug use, then dilated pupils and twitchy hands could be reasonable suspicion. It seems to boil down to a pretty personal interpretation. I think what is “suspicious” does vary from officer to officer and they are putting together a lot of things at once to justify “probable cause” for a detention.
From an officer:
“Different types of contacts allow officers to build community relations, prevent crime and investigate crime. A consensual contact is when an officer makes a contact that is not attached to suspicion the person is involved in criminal activity. It could be an officer simply saying 'hello' or engaging someone in a casual conversation. In these types of contacts, the person is not obligated to stop or converse with the officer.
Reasonable suspicion means the officer has reason to believe the person or persons have engaged or may engage in criminal activity. For example, a person walking down the street looking into car windows and trying door handles, or a person loitering in a known high drug trafficking area. In these instances, officers can detain the involved individuals, who are not free to leave and at minimum, must provide identifying information for themselves. Different circumstances will dictate if the involved individuals must provide additional information or be subject to a search (i.e. if a person is on probation or parole, if there is a safety concern that warrants a pat down search for weapons, or consent, warrant, or arrest searches).
Probable cause means the officer has articulable facts that a person or persons has committed a crime. For example, if an officer responds to a robbery and stops a car with a description and license plate matching what witnesses provided as the suspect vehicle. The person is not free to leave and must identify themselves. Probable cause is key to investigating crime to identify the responsible person(s) and take appropriate action. During these stops, an individual may be required to provide additional information or be subject to a search or their person, property, vehicle, or home, depending on the circumstances.”
Why will so many cops roll up on a small issue?
There is usually one officer per car in Alameda — this is so that the APD can be in more places at once. But for the safety of officers, two cars are usually sent to each call (it is not good practice to go into any call without backup). But for a lot of calls, the potential danger is unclear (let’s say you get a call for drunk in public — what if the guy has a weapon? You might not know...) so if there is any chance of violence, or it is just unclear what the situation might be, additional cars will often be sent if they are available.
Do they have loopholes to the laws to fight against your rights? Like, if they think we have drugs, using some other excuse to pull us over and search our car?
It might depend on what you mean by “loopholes.” Take a traffic stop for example. Officers can only pull you over if:
1. Your vehicle matches the description of a vehicle they are looking for related to a crime.
2. You commit a traffic violation
3. They have probable cause to think you are committing a crime.
The thing is, officers will admit that the vehicle code is dense, and that there are a ton of traffic violations from large to small that people could be committing at any time. So a police officer can probably pull you over for a defensible reason, if they really want to, even if you are not flagrantly breaking traffic laws.
For example, you might have paper licence plates a new car. If that car doesn’t seem suspicious to an officer, they might just ignore that. But, if it does look suspicious (the passenger looks like they might be on drugs - nodding off, it’s a really fancy new car in a less fancy neighborhood, etc.) an officer might pull the car over for having paper plates. THEN they can use that stop to see if anything else illegal is going on. If they smell weed - that’s a potential situation. If the car doesn’t have insurance, that’s another. In this way, a potential infraction (paper license plates) can be legal cause to pull someone over, and then the traffic stop can be used to legally investigate deeper. This isn’t really a loophole, but it is a way that police officers can legally (but indirectly) follow up on larger suspicions.