By Rebekah Martin
My heart jumped in my chest a little the second Sgt. Frank Crnko flipped on his blue lights and whipped his Tahoe around on Columbus Parkway during my citizen’s ride along with the Opelika Police Department. He clocked someone going 52 mph in a 35 mph zone, and while I was automatically a bag of nerves, Crnko, a 15-year veteran of the OPD, said he doesn’t feel the adrenaline rush as much as he did as a rookie cop.
I’ve always held the upmost respect for those in law enforcement … my momma and daddy raised me right. But going on a ride along with two men who patrol the streets of Opelika opened my eyes to the challenges they face and the risks they take every day.
For my life, I can’t understand what drives a man or woman to wake up in the morning, put on a uniform, strap on a firearm and risk their lives for people they don’t even know. I can only imagine it’s a deep love of their community and the well-being of its citizens. We all know it’s not the respect, pay or prestige the profession offers. After this experience, I’m more thankful than ever for those men and women and their families who keep us safe.
I also rode with Sgt. Elliott Grace, who began his career at the OPD in the late 90s. Both officers I had the privilege to ride with were helpful and informative, and I really feel like I got to see what everyday life is like on the job with the OPD. These men and women are Opelika’s finest and are tasked with one of the most important jobs a person can have.
During my ride along, I saw areas of Opelika I had never seen before, and a few that I was told I had no reason to visit again.
I recently finished the annual Citizen’s Police Academy. The CPA is an 8-week course designed to “bridge the gap” between the police department and the citizens of Opelika. We learned the ins-and-outs of the department, went through firearms safety training and heard from department heads.
I feel more involved and engaged in my community after this course, and the opportunity to experience a ride along was one I wouldn’t trade. I highly recommend both to those who are interested in becoming a more informed citizen of this great city we call home.