Once the training is over and they graduate from the police academy, it’s time for new recruits to hit the streets of Atlanta. And they patrol some of the most dangerous places in the city.
Police Officer Alex MacArthur works evening watch in Zone 4. That zone covers a large majority of southwest Atlanta. Each watch, MacArthur is assigned a beat, a car, then he is off to patrol the streets and answer calls for service.
“I was actually nervous, very nervous. It was that point where, wow, it is all over. The training is over and now it’s time to be able to apply everything on your own,” MacArthur said. “It was a weird feeling, I was excited but very nervous.”
MacArthur graduated from the academy on Oct. 1. For the past two months MacArthur has worked multiple beats. One of his scariest calls came just a few weeks ago when he responded to a fellow Atlanta police officer who had been shot in the face.
Officer Christopher L. Smith was working an off-duty security job at the Edgewood Court Apartments on Hardee Street on Nov. 9 when he was shot in the leg and face.
“I was one of the first responding officers over there. The scene over there was chaotic, to say the least,” MacArthur said.
That is the first signal 63 call MacArthur responded to. A signal 63 call is the call for “officer down” or “officer needs help.”
“It definitely puts things in perspective, there is a variety of different calls and every one of them has its unique challenges,” MacArthur said.
Mayor Kasim Reed vowed to make Atlanta’s streets safer when he took office four years ago. Since then, the city has hired 900 new officers.
The recent recruit class from October will make the total number of police officers on the streets 2,000. That is the most the city of Atlanta has ever had.
MacArthur works alone and likes it that way.
“I have the freedom to be able to go anywhere in the zone, and be able to patrol the area and reduce the crime,” MacArthur said.
CBS Atlanta News rode with MacArthur for two evening watches. During that time, we covered everything from traffic stops, to a home invasion. During the invasion, a 6-day-old baby girl was taken from her home and then abandoned in a parking lot. The baby’s frantic mother chased after the kidnapper and was able to get her baby back. Police arrived on scene to a frantic mother.
“Only thing I can think, ‘Oh my God, my 6-day-old baby is dead'” said the mother, who would not tell us her name.
MacArthur searched the area for the suspect, who was an acquaintance of the woman. The baby was treated by paramedics and will be OK.
“For someone that is not down here on a day-to-day basis it can be a little extreme,” MacArthur said. “There are definitely things out here I still have to learn.”
MacArthur worked as a jailer in Polk County then as an over the road trucker until he lost his job. His dream was to be a police officer, so he went after that dream.
“It took a long time, but Atlanta had competitive pay. And this is where I want to be,” MacArthur said.
The Marietta native said he wants to protect the citizens of Atlanta and one day work in a specialized traffic unit.
MacArthur said there is one thing he must accomplish every single day, and it’s something anyone in law enforcement strives for.
“That I made it home safely,” MacArthur said.