A police officer”s shift can be fraught with excitement, or numbingly routine. Most often, there is an unpredictable mix of both, as it was for Columbus Police Department Officer Rick Higgins last Saturday evening.
5 p.m. Arrival
Columbus Police Officer Rick Higgins stood in the foyer of the service entrance on the Columbus Police Department side of the Municipal Complex taking a report. A black man — who looked to be in his 30s or 40s — calmly reported his 17-year-old daughter had not returned home on time. He suspected she might be out with her 18-year-old boyfriend.
5:10 p.m. Waiting
As Higgins continued to speak with the complainant, several officers chatted about NASCAR racing while typing reports at theirs desks. In the briefing room adjacent to the officers” office, the Notre Dame-Michigan game played on a flat-screen television.
5:20 p.m. Trouble comes to the CPD
Higgins disappeared into the back to file his report. The complainant stayed in the briefing room, watching the game.
The laid-back atmosphere was interrupted by loud, urgent knocking.
“Did you hear that knocking?”
Officer Paul Garrett and emerged from an office to check find the commotion, coming from outside a locked entrance.
A distressed female was ushered into the police station.
The black female”s left eye was grotesquely swollen, nearly to a complete close. Hysterical, she tried to explain how her boyfriend attacked her.
He was in the immediate vicinity of the police department, she said.
Garrett offered the woman a seat and attempted to calm her down.
The man who assaulted her is Carlos Derrell Clemmons, she told Higgins.
(Clemmons, 30, of 192 Cedar Drive, had been arrested Aug. 22 by the Columbus Police Department on a charge of domestic violence/aggravated assault. It is unknown if the unidentified female was involved in the prior incident.)
Higgins says officers are used to complainants and victims showing up at the police station instead of calling in complaints.
“It”s actually not too unusual,” he said, noting the station used to have an after-hours office where people could enter anytime.
5:30 p.m. The parking lot
Garrett sent a call over the radio: Clemmons was suspected to be very near the police department. Higgins left the police department and soon came upon Officer Wayne McLemore, who had spotted Clemmons nearby and detained him.
As Higgins pulled over to assist, Clemmons was standing with his hands on McLemore”s police cruiser as McLemore searched him for weapons.
The two officers decided Higgins would take Clemmons back to the police station.
Back in the CPD parking lot, while handcuffed in the back of Higgins” police cruiser, Clemmons told officers the incident evolved from an argument with his girlfriend, the unidentified female, whom Clemmons said was drunk and attacked him first.
(He had no obvious marks on him.)
“Just a typical day,” said Garrett.
An officer drove to the female”s residence to retrieve her three young children.
Both parties may be charged if a judge determines the incident was a fight and not a one-sided attack, Higgins and Garrett explained.
(The CPD reported no charges filed against the unidentified female and, therefore, were not at liberty to disclose her identity.)
5:50 p.m. Off to the detention center
Higgins departed the CPD to take Clemmons to the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center as the female and her three children look on.
Clemmons denied his girlfriend”s claims he assaulted her in the CPD parking lot and stole her checkbook and cell phone.
The argument and fight took place at a residence near the police station, he said.
At the time of his arrest, Clemmons was carrying two plastic bags full of clothing. He didn”t have a checkbook or a cell phone.
Higgins pulled his police cruiser around the back of the detention center where the car passed through a series of tall chain-link gates topped with razor wire.
6 p.m. The list
After checking Clemmons into the detention center, where he remains on charges of domestic violence, Higgins pulled up Clemmons” arrest record on the laptop computer in his cruiser. Clemmons has more than 10 arrests including multiple domestic abuse charges, statutory rape and possession of marijuana.
6:05 p.m. Patrol
More than an hour after beginning his shift, Higgins was finally able to begin his patrol. He drove through multiple Southside neighborhoods after leaving the detention center.
Higgins, an eight-year veteran of the CPD, is on a 12-hour shift; it could last even longer if any major incidents occur.
The number officers on each shift has dwindled since he began in 2001, he noted.
“We went from 12 to eight people, if we”re lucky,” said Higgins.
6:22 p.m. Disturbance call
A call came over the radio — disturbance at a business at 1716 10th Ave. N. Higgins is familiar with the store from past incidences.
At the small convenience store, a visibly shaken cashier — Ahmed Houssein — explained a black male customer wearing a white T-shirt and black bandana threatened him before leaving on foot. It was not the first time the man had caused trouble at the store, according to Houssein.
Higgins conferred with Garrett, who also responded to the call.
Higgins patrolled the area for about 10 minutes, looking for a man who matched Houssein”s description. No suspects were found.
6:45 p.m. Maintaining a presence
Higgins drove through residential districts all over Northside and Southside.
“It”s good to let people see you,” he explains, noting that a visible police presence is often an effective crime deterrent.
Multiple calls came over the radio between 6:30-7 p.m. None were urgent, but Higgins said activity later picked up.
“It turned into a busy night after right after the (Mississippi State-Auburn) ball game,” he said.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.