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Hermiston Police Department Sgt. Tim Beinert often spends most of his shift cruising around in his police car, but not for simple enjoyment sake.
Beinert spends the time scanning areas for trouble, watching out for speeders or other traffic concerns, supporting the other officers on his shifts, and simply being a visible presence in the community.
Patrol shifts can be unpredictable. Some days are busy, and others are quiet. The evening shift on Saturday was such a shift for Beinert. The shift started out with staff briefings, but by 5 p.m. Beinert was already out cruising through Hermiston.
"I think it's the nicest time of day," said Beinert. "People are still at dinner. It's pretty quiet before 8 p.m."
By 5:20, he'd already been out to Riverfront Park checking up on things, before driving over to Theater Lane, cruising through several of the subdivisions, pointing out one of their recent success stories, a former methamphetamine lab, and explained how the laptop computer and dispatch system in the patrol car works.
"We can respond to things without putting it over the radio," said Beinert, referring to the wi-fi system utilized by the department. "It really clears up dispatch."
The computer gives the officers the chance to write reports in the field, and keep track of where each other are and what they are doing at a glance.
Despite such a cutting edge system, off and on during the evening Beinert found himself in areas in Hermiston that either did not have wi-fi due to "blind-spots," or where other signals interfered with the signal.
Fifteen minutes later, Beinert noticed a truck driving down Highway 395 with a large roll of carpet sticking out the tailgate, and a male sitting near it holding on to the carpet, a situation that is not only illegal, but dangerous.
Beinert pulled the truck over and talked to both the passenger and the driver, giving the couple a warning but no citation.
By 6 p.m., it was time for a dinner break. Due to the lack of time, often officers hit a fast food restaurant for their meals, said Beinert, and eat in their cars in a parking lot while remaining available if the need arises.
After a quick bite, he headed back to the office to catch up some payroll paperwork.
By 7:30, Beinert was back on the street, headed over to Victory Square Park to backup a fellow officer who was dealing with three potentially intoxicated gentleman.
Hermiston has a ordinance against public drinking.
Two of the individuals were fairly cooperative with the officers, but one gave contradictory identification, and was eventually escorted to the police station after the officers learned he had other pending charges. He was later charged with giving false information to police, and drinking in public. He also had a previous charge from Union County.
In the next hour and a half, Beinert responded to a public safety concern 9-1-1 call, attempted to serve a subpoena, talked to a concerned landlord, put gas in his patrol car, responded to a check of a business that 9-1-1 reports stated had smoke visible through the front window (it turned out to be a smoke from a debugging), and assisted with another officer's traffic stop.
During those four hours driving around he occasionally checked the speed of various vehicles, but spent the majority of his time scanning different sections of Hermiston for any potential problems.
While Hermiston has been divided into sections for officers to work, depending on staffing, officers may spend time outside their section, said Beinert.
As shift leader, Beinert has no specific section to patrol, and sometimes can rack up the miles.
"I can patrol and put on over 100 miles in an evening," said Beinert. "Some nights I can put on only 2 miles. Most guys I know do about 20-40 miles a night."
Some of those miles are spent in patroling, and some are in responding to 9-1-1 calls.
Over the years there have been numerous types of calls Beinert has responded to, but one stands out as the oddest.
Once, an officer called in to the police department saying she heard screaming. After several agencies converged on the location, they discovered that a flock of flamingos were making the noises.
"It took a while for her to live that one down," joked Beinert.
After years of police work, he said he is happy with his job, despite the slow nights and the paperwork.
"I first got into this (being a police officer) to make a difference," said Beinert.
"I've been offered better paying jobs, and I've turned them down."