Nothing ordinary in working the beat
By Gary A. Witte
When a slow day at work can mean anything from pushing a stalled car out of traffic to helping with a felony-level drug seizure, you might be a Cobb County police officer.
And the wide range of job requirements call for a unique assortment of gear.
The patrol car serves as a mobile office for eight hours a day, if not more. A laptop computer mounted on the dashboard and a printer hidden in the armrest help track calls, write reports or issue tickets.
The trunk typically contains other types of hardware – a shotgun, a rifle or both – for more dangerous tasks.
Having spent nearly four years patrolling south Cobb County, Officer Philip Cronin said he believes every aspect of policing has a sizable impact on the public.
“It’s easy to get jaded,” he said of the work. “What’s become humdrum to us is really a big deal to people.”
Few officers would consider Precinct 2 boring on a routine basis. The south Cobb area, which includes Austell, Mableton, Powder Springs and the Interstate 20 corridor, has one of the highest emergency call rates in the county.
Senior Shift Sgt. Jeff Perry said he believes working the evenings in Precinct 2 for two years is the equivalent of working five years in another zone.
“They know what to do and I’m happy to let them do it,” Perry said.
The shift runs from afternoon until late evening, which brings with it an even higher volume of calls at the already busy precinct. During each shift, officers are assigned to patrol certain areas.
“Some days can be pretty bland,” Cronin said. “Some days it’s nonstop.”
Top, Cobb County Police Officer Philip Cronin and another officer check a threat report July 7.
Below, Cpl. E.D. Smith takes part in a drug seizure. Middle right, Cronin and Officer M.W. Swift inventory the contents of a vehicle after its owner is arrested.
Cobb County Police Officer Philip Cronin helps Austell resident Michael Jones push his stalled car out of the intersection of Factory Shoals Road and Six Flags Drive July 7.
One recent Thursday, Cronin was assigned as the central car, meaning he would backup the officers in each beat. For the next eight hours, he constantly drove throughout the precinct, rarely stopping for anything that didn’t involve public safety or law enforcement. During this time, Cronin listened to a lot of stories.
There was the woman who said her Texas tag was current, even though the year portion of her sticker had apparently been scraped off. There were the half-dozen people practicing on the official driver’s license course who said they didn’t see the “no practicing” sign.
There was the man who, when stopped, offered a friend’s license claiming it was his.
Another man apparently tried to scrape the “ID only” from his identification card to pretend it was a driver’s license.
One driver earned a measure of appreciation when, after being pulled over for running a stop sign, he readily admitted his license was suspended.
“I hate it when people lie,” Cronin said. “I just wish they’d be honest. It’s nonstop.”
Even when no lying is involved, there can be guilt by omission. For instance, when a crop of marijuana plants were discovered in the woods behind an apartment complex that evening, no one seemed to want to claim ownership.
The nine plants were each about five feet tall, set in black plastic containers arranged in the woods behind one of the apartment buildings. An assortment of empty water jugs lay nearby in the pine straw.
Cobb Officer J.M. Massengill found the hidden plants when he was checking the area because of a burglary call at the complex. Cpl. E.D Smith, Officer M.P. English and Cronin, after contacting the drug unit, uprooted them.
“Each plant is a felony,” Cronin said when asked about their value. There were no arrests, but the marijuana was hauled off to be destroyed.
The men and women who handle evenings in Precinct 2 have worked together about a year now, Cronin said. Many graduated from the same class at the police academy and they occasionally go out to eat as a group after their shift is done.
“Any time you’re in some high stress stuff, you learn to depend on each other,” he said.
The teamwork showed as each officer moved quickly to back the others up during traffic stops and help one another during incident calls.
It’s this kind of camaraderie that Cronin appreciates most about a job he has sought since childhood. His workplace is not far removed from his youth, having grown up in Powder Springs. Initially, Cronin planned to go into federal law enforcement, but decided he didn’t want to move.
“It was not hard finding my way around here,” he said of joining the Cobb County Police Department.
During the odd moments that officers aren’t going to or coming from somewhere, there’s always a job to do. Cronin used his radar device regularly, checking the speed of oncoming traffic. At stoplights, he randomly checked tags through the mobile data transmitter, looking for violations.
Meal breaks are sometimes a luxury. Officers no longer go off the clock when they eat. Instead, their fellow officers help cover the territory and the radio is constantly on if they are needed.
“I’d say once a week you get one of those days when you don’t even get a chance to stop,” Cronin said.
Occasionally during the Thursday shift, residents even thanked the officers. A woman expressed her appreciation for their quick response. A man shook Cronin’s hand for his help moving a stalled car out of a busy intersection.
Cronin said when he was young, his mother once called the police about a potential prowler. An officer came out, checked around the house and left. It was a routine call to the officer, but not to her.
“She told people for years how good that made her feel,” he said.