Mostly empty streets greet Modesto officers on Christmas Day

kvaline@modbee.comDecember 25, 2013 

— Sixteen Modesto police officers worked the day shift Wednesday on what is often one of the quietest days of the year for law enforcement – Christmas.

With many people at home celebrating the holiday and nearly all businesses closed, these officers were on track by early afternoon to handle about half of the 120 to 180 calls patrol officers typically respond to during the 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. day shift.

“We certainly hope it continues this way through the evening,” said Lt. Brian Findlen, who worked the day shift.

The calls included citing and releasing a homeless man and woman for possession of drug paraphernalia and stopping a car that police in Manteca believed was involved in a commercial burglary in that city. Police said the young couple in the car, who had a child with them, were not involved in the burglary and were released after being questioned.

Police expected many of Wednesday’s calls to be family disputes. Family members spending many hours together along with the consumption of alcohol can be a combustible combination.

Findlen said that although officers would like to be home with their families, they understand that working on Christmas and other holidays comes with the job. He said he has worked on Christmas about eight times during his 16 years with the Modesto Police Department.

“We have a good job that is rewarding,” he said. “No one complained when they were assigned this shift. We have an obligation to the city and to our peers. Someone has to do it, and we understand that.”

But Christmas duty does come with some perks.

For the sixth consecutive year, Congregation Beth Shalom provided meals of lasagna, salad, garlic bread and dessert to police officers, firefighters and other first responders on Christmas Eve and Christmas.

The first responders could eat or pick up food at the synagogue. Volunteers from the congregation also delivered meals to the staff at Stanislaus County’s three jails and the dispatchers at Stanislaus Regional 911, as well as homebound seniors. In all, volunteers expected to provide nearly 400 meals over the two days.

“We do this to show our support,” volunteer Tom Gough said.

Findlen said officers can have lunch or an early dinner at home with their family on Christmas as long as they live in the Modesto area and are not needed to respond to calls. Officers have to have their radios with them and leave immediately if they are needed.

Findlen started his shift a couple of hours later than normal so he could be with his family and especially his daughter, Erika, as they opened their their presents Wednesday morning. Erika is nearly 3 years old and is beginning to understand Christmas. She got a bike with training wheels and took a spin in the neighborhood with mom and dad.

“Those couple of hours I did get to spend with my family, I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” he said. “Most parents remember the first time their child got on a bike.”

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or (209) 578-2316.

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