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Safety always No. 1 priority for police

By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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Lincoln’s police officers patrol the streets both on their own and with fellow officers who look out for them. That was the message conveyed last Thursday, when The News Messenger patrolled the streets with Officer Matt Williamson. After being slightly unnerved by instructions Williamson gave for what to do if he were to be shot or injured (how to use the radio and how to bring him his gun if needed) and what button “to never, ever push” on his computer, he and The News Messenger rolled out the gate at the police station and began the last two hours of his shift. Williamson, with the Lincoln Police Department since 2006, has the day shift so he works from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. Last Thursday’s ride-along was from 4 to 6 p.m., which Williamson said was a slow afternoon. “You can go from nothing all day to super busy. You can’t predict it,” Williamson said. “Yesterday from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., we were busy.” While patrolling Lincoln that afternoon, there was one traffic stop, response to two calls and pulling over one car. When asked how he starts his day off, Williamson said every officer has their own routine and that officers have their own preference when it comes to the type of patrolling they do. “My preference is to chase drugs and stolen property. To me, it’s more appealing,” Williamson said. “Variety is good for a healthy department and to provide good service for a city.” As far as traffic stops go, keeping alert and aware keeps officers safe, according to Williamson, who said officers “die by becoming complacent.” “We’ve always got to think about personal safety,” Williamson said. “Every car stop is different, and every walk up to a car, it’s a genuine possibility that I could get shot.” Getting to know his beat and the people in it is Williamson’s job. During Thursday’s ride-along, Williamson primarily stuck to the area surrounded by G Street, Nicolaus Road, Joiner Parkway and First Street. Lincoln is divided into four different beats, according to Williamson, and there are always four officers on patrol as well as one sergeant. “My responsibility is to know where the other officers are,” Williamson said. “I need to know where all of my partners are.” This is because if another officer requests back-up, Williamson will need to know exactly where they are to be there as quickly as possible. One such instance happened when Officer Brett Schneider needed Williamson’s assistance during a traffic stop. A person in the car was not willing to provide their personal information to Schneider so he called for back-up to protect him while filling out the traffic citation. Williamson said he was there to keep an eye on the car so the occupants “didn’t do something like throw drugs out the car window, shoot at the officer or run.” “It’s safer for him for me to be here,” Williamson said. “The important thing tonight is that he and I go home safe. That’s the most important job of a cop and you’ll hear that across the nation.” Cruising through an apartment complex on First Street, Williamson noted that the situation has “changed for the better” in Lincoln’s apartment complexes. “We’ve been going out on foot and working with the apartment complex managers,” Williamson said. Officers practice being proactive by doing activities such as foot patrol, “concentrated patrol in problem areas” in places with frequent crime activity and “general street patrol and officers knowing their beat and the activity within that area,” according to Williamson. He said the most common criminal activity that officers deal with is “primarily thefts from vehicles but also residential burglaries.” Williamson said residents should call 911 for activity such as car accidents, people physically fighting and crimes in progress, and the non-emergency number (645-4040) for everything else. “If you have a problem, call us,” Williamson said.