When I was told I’d be the guinea pig for a new saratoga living feature called “Ride Along,” where I’d literally be riding along with a Saratoga Springs Police Department officer and writing about it, my first reaction was, “Wait, what?! Why me?” Not that I’ve had any notorious run-ins with the law—two traffic tickets over 16 years is pretty tame—but I can be a fairly nervous person, and engaging with the police or even just being near them definitely induces some jitters. In the end, I’m glad I was able to make it happen; I learned that Saratoga’s men and women in blue are a lot like us, really.
Meeting Officer Khutoryanskiy • 3:55pm
I meet Officer Yevgeniy Khutoryanskiy at Saratoga Springs Police Department (SSPD) for a Friday afternoon shift. I notice that he’s carrying an AR-15 assault rifle. He’s also sporting a pretty fresh black eye. “I’ll tell you about that a little later,” he says, referring to the shiner.
Roll Call Room • 4pm
Officer Khutoryanskiy begins his day in the roll call room where officers write reports and receive assignments and updates. I’m going out on patrol tonight with Khutoryanskiy, who tells me that Friday and Saturday evenings are usually the busiest. Apparently, if I’d shadowed Officer Khutoryanskiy last weekend, I would’ve witnessed him being head-butted while trying to arrest someone who was drunk—the source of that black eye. In his three-and-a-half years at SSPD, Khutoryanskiy says that he’s had two or three reported injuries. Great, I think, what have I gotten myself into?
Jail Cells • 4:15pm
Before heading out, I get a quick tour of the station, which has served as SSPD’s headquarters since 1887. Officer Khutoryanskiy says that the jail cells are likely from that time period—and they certainly look it. “We’re not putting as many people in here now, though,” says Officer Khutoryanskiy. “New York State bail reform took effect on January 1.”
Traffic Stop • 5:30pm
About an hour into our patrol, Officer Khutoryanskiy makes his first traffic stop, an old truck missing a taillight and tagged doing 46mph in a 30mph zone on Union Avenue. Officer Khutoryanskiy runs the man’s registration and discovers that his plates are also expired. He writes the man a ticket for the taillight, but gives him a warning for the rest, provided he register his plates online right then. “My decision’s usually based on that initial conversation I have,” says Officer Khutoryanskiy. “If I can cut someone a break, I usually will.”
Mental Health Call • 6:38pm
Officer Khutoryanskiy responds to a mental health call: Someone saying that they don’t want to live anymore. Two other police cars are with us on Van Dam Street as Officer Khutoryanskiy picks the man up and gives him a ride over to Saratoga Hospital. “We’re not mental health professionals, but we’re able to bridge that gap a little and take him to the hospital,” says Officer Khutoryanskiy. He tells me that calls like these are becoming more common.
“Lunch” Break • 7:30pm
We grab lunch—or really, dinner—at Subway. Officer Khutoryanskiy asks if I’d prefer to eat in or take it to go. I ask him what he normally does. “To go,” he says. “It’s safer back at the station.” Whether it’s a routine traffic stop or just picking up some food on break, I’ve noticed that Officer Khutoryanskiy is constantly concerned with safety. “It’s a different world,” he says back in the cruiser, the AR-15 locked in between us. “Officers didn’t use to have to prepare for active shooter situations.”
On Foot • 8pm
After our break, we patrol Broadway on foot, which Officer Khutoryanskiy tells me is pretty common during the busy summer months. “It’s important, sometimes, to go out and say, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’” he says. “You often see a look in people’s faces, a kind of shock that you’re not investigating or anything like that.” During our short time walking downtown, quite a few people greet Officer Khutoryanskiy, even a bouncer on Caroline Street who tells him, “It’s still early, boss.”
Second Mental Health Call • 9:29pm
Officer Khutoryanskiy responds to another mental health call for a juvenile, possibly intoxicated—possibly on something else. This time, an ambulance arrives to take the young man to the hospital, and Officer Khutoryanskiy, along with two other cruisers, follows closely behind. As with every call tonight, Officer Khutoryanskiy’s careful not to divulge too much information to me.
Back At The Station • 11pm
It’s been an unusually slow night for a Friday, so I decide to cut loose an hour early. Officer Khutoryanskiy would normally be leaving around midnight, but he volunteered earlier to stay until 5am. He takes me back to the station, and I wish him good luck with the rest of his shift. It may have been an uneventful evening—at least to him—but I’m just glad to make it home safe without any black eyes or worse.
Best Thing I Saw: I was surprised in our short time walking around Downtown Saratoga how many people engaged with Officer Khutoryanskiy. There seemed to be genuine trust there. An elderly woman even stopped to tell him that her stepson was a police sergeant for Saratoga County. “It’s a small world,” Khutoryanskiy said afterward.
Worst Thing I Saw: Guns usually make me uncomfortable, and Officer Khutoryanskiy’s AR-15 in the police cruiser was a constant reminder of the gravity of what we were doing out there.
The Bottom Line: I had a lot of trepidation going into this assignment. By the end of it, though, I felt like, for the most part, I’d just been cruising around town with a friend. In many ways, Officer Khutoryanskiy and I had far more in common than I would’ve suspected. We were about the same age, both history buffs, both big fans of the quiet upstate life. If I see Officer Khutoryanskiy on the street downtown this summer, I’ll be sure to stop and ask him how his day’s going.