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Inside the squad car

The inside of officer Jake Maier’s police vehicle shows a wide range of gear, preparing him for just about anything — whether it’s making a routine traffic stop, pursuing felony warrants or aiding in a seven-hour standoff.

Maier works nights for the Crosslake Police Department and allowed an Echo Journal writer into the passenger’s seat of the department’s 2012 Dodge Charger squad car for the beginning of an evening shift, offering a glimpse into the day-to-day efforts of area police officers.

After checking his email and voicemails at his desk, Maier’s first order of business Thursday night, Oct. 24, was to meet with the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Department to pursue two residents with felony warrants for their arrests.

Inside Maier’s squad car is a laptop that shows all the area police officers on duty and what calls they’re on. Before pulling out of the parking lot, he posts that he’s pursuing felony warrant arrests, and the status shows up on the screens of all other area squads and informs county dispatchers.

Officers from different departments are also able to send each other information from the computers. The two sheriff’s deputies in the car next to Maier’s send Maier information on the two felony warrants they’ll pursue. Maier pulls up a long file on the computer comprising their entire criminal records.

Maier said that in this case the felony warrants are for drugs. He said that nearly all felony warrants for drugs in this area are for meth, rather than other hard drugs like cocaine or heroin.

The officers discuss the two wanted residents’ latest addresses and discuss whether they might run if confronted with police.

The officers check two area residences for the wanted people but come up empty. Maier guesses they’re aware of the warrants and have moved.

Maier’s next order of business was to perform patrols around the city and Mission Township, as Crosslake’s department is contracted to provide services there.

Maier’s vehicle is fully loaded with equipment: lights on all sides of the car that can shine on dark areas while on patrol, a radio to reach dispatch, a dash camera that records traffic stops and other activity, a microphone on his body that records interactions with others, blood alcohol level testers, evidence collection equipment and backup firearms, including a rifle.

Maier mentioned an instance in the past where he aided the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Department with a standoff in which he stood holding his rifle for a full seven hours. He’s been involved in two standoffs in the not-too-distant past, he said.

Most days, though, are not so eventful. Maier said traffic stops seem like a basic duty, even an annoyance to drivers, but that stopping cars leads to stopping other crimes.

The radar on the dash of Maier’s car can track the speed of oncoming cars, cars moving away from Maier’s car or cars passing Maier’s vehicle. Whatever direction a car traveling, Maier said, the radar can capture its speed.

As Maier activates the radar, it gives off a tone that audibly tells the officer how accurate the detection is. The steadier the tone he hears, the more accurate the reading.

Maier gets a reading off a car on County Road 11 traveling 72 mph in a 55-mph speed zone. He follows the vehicle, but before pulling the car over, he runs the license plate number through his computer system. This tells Maier if the car is stolen or if the owner is a wanted person.

Some wanted people, he said, are known to be dangerous, making it unsafe to pull them over with just one officer. Running the license plate gives him an advance heads-up.

After running the plates, Maier turns on his lights to pull the car over. He reports to the dispatch center that he’s on a traffic stop, and then approaches the driver for his information.

Maier runs the driver’s license and sees that this particular driver has had eight or nine speeding tickets, which indicates he probably speeds most of the time. Maier said the man’s excuse was that he had to go to the bathroom. As Maier looks through the driver’s records, dispatch periodically radios him to check his status and make sure he’s OK.

Maier fills out a form on his laptop and a ticket prints from a printer between the two front seats. He said he might not have written the ticket if the driver wasn’t driving so far over the speed limit.

Maier said he doesn’t enjoy writing tickets. On the other hand, traffic stops like the one he just performed are a contact point to catch drunk drivers or other crimes.

Maier said he’s had traffic stops that have led him to find several ounces of meth. Writing tickets isn’t his favorite part of the job, he said, but picking up two people on felony drug charges is a different story.

“I’ll give myself a pat on the back for that,” he said.

Maier’s patrols continued that night as he checked area parks for any suspicious activity and made more traffic stops. For the most part, he issues warnings. He advises the next driver, whom he pulls over for speed, to be sure to slow down and drive safely.

“And you can be on your way,” he said.