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Archive for Sunday, May 14, 1995

POLICE ON THE BEAT

May 14, 1995

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While cruising the streets, a Lawrence police officer talks about a job he says he enjoys.

Lawrence police officer Doug Nelson stood in the shadows at 11th and Haskell, pumping 14.8 gallons of gasoline into his patrol car.

The digital clock on the dash of the Ford Crown Victoria clicked toward 2 a.m. Almost the end of the shift.

Back at the station, the 45-year-old Nelson noted his night's mileage in his notebook: 60 miles.

"Actually, for a Friday, it's been steady, but not hectic," Nelson said.

In service

Nelson prefers to work the 10-hour, four-day-a-week shift that starts at 3:45 p.m. and stretches to 2:15 a.m. the next day.

"I've just found it's more conducive to my lifestyle," Nelson said.

He was nearly three hours into that tour on a recent Friday when a Journal-World reporter and photographer joined him for about seven hours.

Settled into his patrol car, after adjusting his seat cushion, Nelson picked up his radio microphone. "134's 10-8." In service. Out on the street.

Nelson, who will celebrate his 20th anniversary as a Lawrence police officer on July 1, is free to roam the city this night in car No. 134, responding to calls relayed to him by dispatchers from the second floor of the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center. As he drives through the 600 block of Massachusetts, his eyes scan the street and the sidewalks. He waves at people gathered outside of Free State Brewing Co. who are celebrating the end of their work week.

"I didn't think it was going to be that busy this weekend," Nelson said. "I think I might change my mind."

Burglary in progress

If he's assigned to one of the city's six police districts, Nelson prefers the compact downtown area. There's more activity there.

This night, the activity generally was elsewhere.

It was three miles east of Lawrence on Kansas Highway 10, where about 8 p.m. a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper picked up a drunken driver -- driving a bicycle, that is.

"It happens occasionally," the trooper said as Nelson filled out reports on a stolen bicycle he'd recovered behind apartments on Rockledge Road.

The activity also was in southeast Lawrence, where a burglar struck.

Nelson was returning to his car about 10:40 p.m. after investigating reports of a man yelling at apartment dwellers in the 2500 block of Redbud Lane when the call came in: burglary in progress, 2401 W. 25th. Just a few blocks away.

Tenants surprised a man who was burglarizing their apartment. He crashed through a sliding glass door, dumping a blue bag stuffed with compact discs and a CD player on the ground.

Not injured, the burglar fled into the night.

As one group of officers gathered information at the apartment, Nelson and other officers swung through the neighborhood, searching the shadows with the spotlights mounted on their cars. As he drove, Nelson's right index finger adjusted the volume on his radio. He lowered, then raised his power window. Then lowered it again.

From a security officer he learned a man was spotted near wooden benches in Holiday Plaza shopping center at 25th and Iowa. Nelson zoomed into the south parking lot. No one.

Then an officer, short of breath, radioed he was behind the new Barbwire's Steakhouse, 2412 Iowa. He'd just handcuffed a man carrying a plastic bag filled with coins.

Nelson drove the bag over to the 25th Street apartment.

"Yeah, that's mine," one of the tenants told the officers, about a half-hour after the burglary.

14 miles over

Nelson's 20 years of experience show in how he handles people.

At a duplex on Valley Lane, Nelson talked calmly to a renter who is trying to break his lease and is agitated at his landlord. He told the man his concerns aren't criminal. They're best handled in civil court.

"It's sad that people can't resolve conflicts without getting us involved," Nelson said after turning his patrol car onto University Drive just west of the Kansas University campus.

Parked at a favorite speed trap on 22nd Street, Nelson aimed a hand-held radar gun at passing cars. He pointed it skyward as a man walked by.

"I lift it up as a courtesy to people, so they don't think I'm pointing a gun at them," Nelson said.

A few minutes later, he's stopped a woman driving south on Naismith Drive -- 14 miles per hour over the speed limit.

"She was very pleasant, but she's very upset," he said as he wrote the ticket that could cost her $53.50. "I think she's starting to cry right now."

A job he likes

During his 30-minute meal break -- about 9:30 p.m. this night -- Nelson likes to read newspapers at Village Inn, 821 Iowa. He doesn't usually eat, but he does drink coffee.

He said he'll have no trouble going to sleep at home later. He'll watch TV for a while, leaving work behind him, then head off to bed.

Before joining the police force, Nelson dispatched for 10 months.

"It's a tough job," he said. "It really is."

He prefers police work. Now more than ever before, he said, he enjoys being one of the 98 men and women currently on the police force.

"It gets old sometimes," he said. "You go on repeat calls, the same people, the same faces. But overall, I enjoy it."

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