Cop's job is anything but dull
By MARALINE KUBIK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
FLASHING RED LIGHTS IN THE REAR-VIEW mirror send shudders of dread through most drivers, but in a crisis, police are heroes.
When Dan Mamula, a patrolman, reports for work each afternoon, he's never sure what to expect. The only given is that the night will not be the same as any before.
Mamula, a lifelong Struthers resident, has wanted to be a cop since he was a teenager. Now 31, he graduated from Struthers High school in 1989, went to work as a reserve police officer in 1992 and has been on the Struthers police force full time since 1994.
He works 3 to 11 p.m.
Like most Struthers officers, Mamula has the cop he relieves pick him up. Having officers finishing their shifts pick up those coming on duty keeps cruisers on the road.
His ride arrives at 2:40 p.m.
Gets ready to go
At the station, Mamula signs out the laser gun he'll use to track speeders and gathers his gear: traffic citations, accident reports and other forms he might need.
He packs them into a bag along with videotapes for the camera that will record traffic stops, his nightstick, gloves and personal cell phone.
The city doesn't issue cell phones, so officers use their own to relay information they don't want broadcast.
With his gear and bulletproof vest, Mamula is 15 pounds heavier.
3:30 p.m.: Mamula is tracking speeders on Midlothian Boulevard.
"We want to be visible, let them know we're here," he said. "We get a lot of complaints about speeding and this is a preventive measure -- it's slows the traffic down."
3:40 p.m.: Mamula makes his first traffic stop -- a middle-aged man in a pickup truck clocked at 47 mph in a 25 mph zone.
"He is not very happy," Mamula says after ticketing the man.
Dealing with irate people is routine for a police officer, Mamula says. "I just tune it out."
Mamula drives to Center Street where neighbors have been complaining about speeders.
4:10 p.m.: "I'm surprised we haven't had a couple of calls by now," he says.
4:15 p.m.: Mamula gets his first call: suicidal male; estranged wife requests assistance.
Mamula waits a block from the house for backup.
"At least two officers go to domestics," he said. "Emotions are always running high on domestics."
When officers approach the house, a man emerges, buries his face in his hands and slumps onto the porch steps, sobbing.
One officer stays with the man. The other talks with the wife.
Mamula radios for an ambulance.
The man has moved onto the porch. His two children, who look to be 8 or 9 years old, cling to him, arms around his neck.
The temperature is a sticky 86 degrees.
An ambulance arrives. Paramedics strap the man onto a gurney. The wife calls the children inside.
5 p.m.: Mamula returns to his car, fastens his seat belt and turns the air conditioner to high.
On the way to the station, he pulls alongside a disabled vehicle.
"You guys OK?"
"Yeah. We got a tow coming," the stranded driver replies.
5:05 p.m.: Back at the station, Mamula asks co-workers what has transpired. As shift supervisor, he must keep abreast of everything.
5:06 p.m.: An officer radios that he needs a supervisor at a domestic violence call.
5:08 p.m.: Mamula arrives. After several minutes, a young man is arrested on charges of stealing a shotgun out of his father's room and threatening to kill him with it.
5:19 p.m.: While en route to the station -- Mamula has yet to begin his paperwork -- the dispatcher radios that Youngstown police need help apprehending a suspect in an attempted robbery.
5:20 p.m.: Cruisers from Youngstown and Struthers line the street.
The suspect insists police have the wrong man. Another cruiser pulls up with the victim. He tells police they have the wrong man.
5:37 p.m.: Mamula heads for the station.
"What was that?" he says, turning his cruiser around and flipping on the overhead lights.
"That guy was all over his girlfriend while she's trying to drive."
The car with the couple pulls to the side of the road.
5:40 p.m.: After a brief exchange, Mamula returns to his cruiser.
"She just got off work and he can't wait," the patrolman chuckles. "I told them to wait until they get home."
At the station, Mamula examines the shotgun confiscated from the man who threatened his father, counts cash paid as bond, and writes a receipt.
5:45 p.m.: "How's your brother?" he asks a man picked up on a warrant.
Having grown up in Struthers, Mamula knows many of the people he sees in the course of a work day.
"That's tough -- to go on a call and find out it's someone you've known all your life," he said. But, Mamula insists, knowing the people is also an asset: He knows what to expect from the troublemakers.
Mamula said becoming a police officer opened his eyes.
"I was surprised by the amount of domestic violence and the drug use -- a lot of people use crack, smoke marijuana, heroin."
5:57 p.m.: Three people are being booked.
Mamula helps complete fingerprint cards and inventory inmates' personal items. He places a marijuana pipe into a plastic bag and puts it in the evidence locker.
"We work as a team to get it done quick," he explains.
6:45 p.m.: The 911 line rings. A 15-year-old reports that another boy has threatened to shoot him.
6:48 p.m.: Mamula arrives at the boy's house.
After talking with other kids and the boy's ailing grandmother, Mamula heads for the home of the boy accused of making the threat.
7 p.m.: Mamula spots the suspect driving toward the street of the threatened boy and stops him.
"I was just on my way to your house," he tells the driver.
"Is it true that you said you were going to shoot that boy?"
Mamula learns the dispute between the boys is over a girl.
He sternly tells the boy that there will be no more threats.
"When you call his house and he don't want you to call, that's called telephone harassment," Mamula informs the boy. "Do not go within two blocks of his house."
7:13 p.m.: Mamula stops at the house of the boy who made the 911 call. "Don't call him. And don't have your girlfriend call," Mamula instructs the boy.
7:15 p.m.: The dispatcher radios that there is a party at a downtown banquet hall. Police routinely check such functions for illegal activity -- gambling, exotic dancing.
7:20 p.m.: Mamula and another officer enter the hall.
7:22 p.m.: "It's a family gathering," Mamula reports.
7:25 p.m.: Mamula spots a boy who appears to be coming from the bicycle path. It looks like he's hiding something under his shirt.
"Hey, where are you going?" he asks the boy.
"To my dad's house."
"Where are you coming from?"
"I was in Lowellville."
"That's a long walk. What's under your shirt?"
The boy pulls his hands out.
7:30 p.m.: Pizza and pepperoni rolls have arrived at the station.
Mamula opens a can of diet Pepsi and slices a pepperoni roll as he banters jokes back and forth with his co-workers.
7:51 p.m.: Pizza boxes and soda cans are in the trash.
Mamula works on his reports.
8:18 p.m.: The 911 line rings. The caller hangs up. Dispatcher calls back. The man who answers says everything is OK. The dispatcher hears a woman yelling.
8:20 p.m.: Mamula is en route to the 911 call.
8:23 p.m.: An intoxicated woman at the home tells police she pushed her boyfriend to the ground and threw his crutches into the yard.
The boyfriend says he doesn't want the woman to be arrested.
8:24 p.m.: Police arrest the woman and cuff her hands behind her back. She struggles to break free. Two officers wrestle the woman into a cruiser.
8:29 p.m.: At the station the woman hurls profanities at officers. Mamula tries to engage her in conversation.
8:37 p.m.: The nonemergency line rings. The manager of a retail store needs an escort to the bank. Mamula sends a colleague.
8:43 p.m.: The drunken woman has been fingerprinted and needs to change from street clothes into a bright orange jail jumpsuit.
Mamula asks the dispatcher to call for a female officer.
8:45 p.m.: "Two hours and 15 minutes to go," he announces, counting down until his shift ends.
The woman arrested is still running her mouth.
8:56 p.m.: A female officer from Poland Township arrives.
9 p.m.: "This officer here, who is my friend, is going to change you," Mamula tells the woman.
9:05 p.m.: Dressed in jail garb, the woman scribbles her signature on a form at Mamula's request.
9:13 p.m.: Mamula pops the tab on a diet Pepsi, takes a swig and heads for his cruiser.
9:15 p.m.: While patrolling, Mamula, who lives alone, drives past his house to see if a light is on.
9:40 p.m.: Dispatcher radios Mamula asking him to assist a Poland officer with a hit-and-run accident.
9:45 p.m.: The woman accused of backing into another vehicle shows Mamula her insurance card, driver's license and registration.
There is no damage; both parties drive off.
10 p.m.: Dispatcher radios an address where an explosive may have been detonated.
10:04 p.m.: Mamula arrives at the home of an elderly woman. She is near tears and trembling. Her son tells Mamula that someone threw a firecracker on the porch.
Mamula searches but finds no sign of an explosive. He instructs the woman to call 911 if she has any more trouble.
"I thought it had to be an emergency," she says.
"Don't worry; if you need us, call 911," he says, reassuring her.
10:10 p.m. Mamula places a parking ticket on the windshield of a car facing the wrong way.
10:20 p.m.: Patrolmen meet at the city gas pump to fill their tanks.
They record mileage and fuel pumped so the city can track use.
10:30 p.m.: Mamula puts his laser away and commends fellow officers for their work.
"I can't wait to get this uniform off," he says.
10:35 p.m.: Mamula leaves to pick up his replacement.
10:40 p.m.: A woman flags him down. "I am 100 percent sure I just hit a dog," she says.
10:41 p.m.: Mamula shines his spotlight on the road. "There it is."
The little black dog is barely visible on the dark street.
Mamula parks in front of the dog to protect it from oncoming traffic. It appears to have a broken leg.
10:45 p.m.: A handful of neighbors gather around.
A little boy and his grandmother rush up the sidewalk. When the boy sees the dog, he starts to cry.
"Oh, no. Be still. Maggie, be still." The woman tries to quiet the dog.
The little boy strokes the dog's curly black fur.
Neighbors assemble a pet carrier around the injured animal; Mamula holds a light.
A shirtless man across the street holds up his beer and hollers.
Mamula tells him to go inside.
11 p.m.: Neighbors load the dog into the grandmother's car.
11:05 p.m.: Mamula arrives at the home of his replacement, Capt. Tim Roddy.
Roddy is waiting on the porch, listening to his police radio.
11:12 p.m.: Mamula pulls into his drive. He'll be in bed by 2 a.m.