Part of the city
It’s the Thursday after Halloween, a quiet night on the Hill and around downtown Boulder. Police officer Ryan Bemis and his partner for the night Fabian Rodriguez make circles around their patrol area, waiting for a noise complaint or a call from dispatch to switch their focus to.
The temperature continues to dip as the night goes on, nearing midnight, but they keep the heat off, driving quietly through rows and rows of houses with the exception of rock music humming quietly from the radio. Despite the cold weather, Bemis is in a short sleeve shirt, Rodriguez opting for a jacket and a beanie over his head.
They just finished filing paperwork for their last arrest after finding 20 grams of heroin on a man during a traffic stop. The suspect fell asleep at a green light, and when Bemis and Rodriguez went to see what was going on, he froze, looking frantically around his car before getting out to talk. He stumbled around to the back of his truck, trying to discreetly drop the rocks in its bed. Bemis heard the drugs hit the bottom, and the duo made their first arrest of the night.
“What fun stuff you got today?” someone asks Bemis as he walks back into the station with the confiscated drugs.
Bemis loads a sliver of the drug into a plastic container with a reactant. When he punctures the package with his thumb, it turns bright green.
“Heroin it is.”
Along with the heroin, the suspect was carrying $279 and four pills in a mismatched prescription bottle.
“Should we charge him for the two Xanax?” Bemis asks.
“I don’t see why not,” his partner responds, but the pills are so light the scale won’t even pick them up, and they decide to stick to the heroin charges.
Once the drugs are tested, the officers walk into the jail to put together a report.
After leaving his weapons in a lockbox outside the jail, Bemis sits down at a computer in front of a glass divider. On the other side sits a suspect, a woman who appears to be in her late 30s with darker features. She looks up at Bemis nervously, with wet eyes, before turning her back to him. As she lifts a bite of food to her mouth, a band on her ring finger sparkles as her hands shake.
Rodriguez takes the seat to his right, and they both settle in to finish out the report, Bemis typing the narrative and Rodriguez going through the system to record the charge.
The officer next to Rodriguez apologizes before he’s able to sit down.
“I had them move that guy into your stall,” she says. “He wouldn’t stop mumbling and asking me questions.”
Across from Rodriguez, a white man in a red Boulder County Jail jumpsuit lays on a table like it’s his bed, with his feet straight up in the air. He says something briefly, and Rodriguez lets out a sigh before settling into his work.
The room is fairly quiet aside from the clicking of keys down a row of officers until Rodriguez pushes himself away from the desk he’s seated at.
“It smells like he shit himself,” Rodriguez says calmly. “Like a bomb went off.”
The other officers laugh. Rodriguez waits for the smell to linger out of his station so he can finish out his part of the paperwork.
The rest of the night follows a similar rhythm: constantly uneventful.
As the patrol car drives by, Bemis flashes a spotlight at the side of the house to verify the address. Inside, a girl visible through the window stops mid-sentence. Her jaw drops.
“Oh shit,” her mouth moves.
Minutes later, Bemis knocks, and a younger looking boy walks out of the house. On the verge of tears, his voice cracking and words slurring, he pleads his case.
“I was downstairs. They kept turning it up. I had no idea. I’m so sorry. I promise I'll keep it down,” he says, sounding more scared with each statement.
Bemis is listening to the boy, nodding his head, when someone comes through the front door to join his friend outside.
“We’ll just a shut it down and have everyone leave,” he says. “Just give me 10… 10, 10 minutes?”
“Ten, 10 minutes?” Bemis mocks, but agrees, and heads back to the car.
When the car doors close, laughter erupts momentarily over the drunk kid sobered by the prospect of police intervention.
The rest of the night, Bemis and Rodriguez patrol empty streets, ditching down alleys, talking to the people who live regularly within them. It’s a slow night, with everyone feeling the exhaustion from Halloween weekend the week before.
Before the house party, Rodriguez and Bemis made a stop at the corner of 13th Street and Arapahoe Avenue to respond to a call about a homeless man camping beneath a bridge by the creek.
“Keith you know better than this,” Bemis says after coaxing the man out of his sleeping bag. After nearly seven years on the job, Bemis knows many of the homeless people in Boulder, and where their typical camping spots are. There’s a sock on the floor, shoes scattered among the rocks and three bikes surrounding Keith’s campsite.
“This isn’t a good spot,” Bemis says. “Go somewhere a little more…”
Rodriguez interjects, “Discreet.”
Keith is groggy, looking around for his friends, who he says must’ve left him while he was asleep. He searches around for his hat that sits in the back of his coat hood, but his motions are so slow that both Bemis and Rodriguez figure he has no intention of getting up.
“We’ll give you 10 minutes,” Bemis tells Keith. “We’ve been getting calls about you. We don’t just come looking for you.”
“Oh, no one calls on me. They know me. Everybody knows Keith,” he mumbles back. “All 150,000 white people in Boulder knows Keith. I’m not causing no trouble. I’m just trying to sleep.”
Bemis and Rodriguez both reason with Keith, and the three come to an agreement: Keith says he’ll leave the park within 10 minutes, or else, the officers tell him, they’ll have to come back and wake him up again.
“We're not coming back in 10 minutes,” Rodriguez looks over to Bemis as they head back to their car yet again to make another circle around the neighborhood.