The work of a police officer is never done, 24 hours per day, seven days a week. When in need, they are always there to protect and serve the public.

Orange Police Officer J.E. Baggett,  begins his day Monday at a local school watching the flow of traffic to make sure the children safely begin their day at school. While there he looks to make sure all drivers are following the laws such as the speed limit and the cell phone law which prohibits cell phone usage in school zones.

Working the day shift is usually not as chaotic as a weekend night, but things can change at any moment. But, today things are quiet and Baggett begins by patrolling area neighborhoods. During the day shift, officers encounter more traffic which can ultimately mean more wrecks too. With more people attending to their daily activities, the officers  may take more reports after the discovery of thefts or vandalism which has occurred overnight.

The OPD officers work 12 hour shifts. They work four nights, then are off for three days. They return to work for three days more to work the day shirt and are only off one day before working three more night shifts and then off three more days. Finally, they work four day shifts before the big payoff– eight days off.

During each shift, there are five officers and two supervisors on duty. Four officers have an assigned zone to patrol while the fifth officer assists where needed. However, in the event back-up is needed, unless they are busy, they all assist each other. Each day they also switch zones. An officer can drive up to 150 miles per day during his shift.

While patrolling Baggett scans the area for suspicious activity.

“If you ride the streets enough, you know what belongs there,” Baggett said.

Patrolling the streets also works as a crime deterrent, he added.

Baggett patrols the business districts as well. During the drive from one location to another he “multi-tasks” and scans the roads for vehicles with violations such as lack of a front license plate, expired tags and inspection stickers or a driver not wearing a seat belt.

He drives to a local business, where he spots the suspicious activity of a man loitering in the parking lot. The man was trying to hide behind a dumpster as the officer drove by. Baggett stops in an adjacent parking lot and gets out to talk to the him. The 59-year-old man said he has a residence, but Baggett knew he is actually homeless. The man produced identification and Baggett talks to dispatch and it is discovered the man has a warrant for outstanding traffic violations. While searching the area where he had spotted the man hiding, he found a 32-ounce can of beer which was still cold to the touch.  Baggett wrote the man a citation for violating the open container law. He conducts a pat-down and placed handcuffs on the man.

In the mean time, another officer arrives at the scene. Baggett pours the beer out into the grass and puts the empty can into the garbage.

Baggett places the man into the back of the patrol vehicle and heads to the Orange County Jail. He escorts the man inside and gives the jail personnel  the information they need to book him into the jail. He then heads out to patrol once more.

Baggett, now 27, started working as a police officer at the age of 21 years old. He didn’t follow in anyone’s footsteps but chose the path of a police officer on his own. During his off time he is a devoted father of two children and is married.

In addition, to his duties as a police officer, he has been a member of Special Weapons And Tactics team since 2009. The SWAT team is an elite tactical unit. They are trained to perform high-risk operations which fall outside of the abilities of regular officers. They are called to work during instances such as a hostage situations,  to deal with heavily armed suspects or someone who had barricaded themselves in a structure. The local SWAT team is formed with officers from the various agenices in the area.

Baggett completes eight hours of training per month to be a part of the special unit. In addition, he is required to maintain his TCLEOSE, Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Education, certification with 40 hours of mandatory training and continuing education every two years. Additionally, every fourth year  he is required to receive a legislative update which covers new laws.

Baggett is also a Field Training Officer. When an officer is newly hired he is required to ride with a FTO. During the first week, the new officer rides along and observes. During the second week, they drive the patrol vehicle and do 25 percent of the work. By the third week, they not only drive, but do 50 percent of the work and  75 percent of the work in week four. By the fifth week, the new officer does all the work and the FTO only observes. If they pass the tests, then they are out on their own to work among their fellow officers.

During his patrol he spots a young woman walking down the street in tears. He stops to make sure she is OK. She tells him of a family tragedy. He tells her he hopes she will be fine. Later her family members will stop him and ask of her location. He tells them where he saw her last.

He drives away to see what may be lurking nearby. He spots a man who is walking on the street instead of the nearby sidewalk. The man says he has no identification, but Baggett spots a wallet protruding from his back pocket and reminds him. The man provides the I.D. and Baggett calls dispatch to confirm if there are no warrants. Baggett also spots an object protruding from the man’s front pocket which proves to be a bottle of pills with the man’s name on the label. The man tells Baggett he is in search of a friend’s house near a local business. The warrant check comes back clean so the man takes off in a different direction. Baggett goes around the block to continue the patrol when he notices the man has vanished. He plans to follow up later.

He receives a call to serve a felony warrant. Baggett arranges for another officer to go with him to the residence. Together they attempt to serve the warrant and after several knocks on the front door, nobody answers. They leave and it will have to be served another time.

Later in the day while driving through a neighborhood, he spots a vehicle with a tail light not working. He calls in the location and the tag number before initiating his overhead lights. The vehicle in front of him slowly comes to a stop. He cautiously approaches the vehicle and speaks to the driver about the tail light.

“You just never know who is behind the wheel,”he said.

It could be someone who has just committed a felony and has a gun ready to fire it so they can make their escape.

According to FBI statistics, more officers are killed or injured annually during the course of a traffic stop than at any other time excluding vehicle accidents and effecting arrests.

However, a check of her driver’s license reveals she does not have any warrants for her arrest. Baggett wraps it up and she continues on her journey.

Throughout the day, Baggett, like most officers stays busy. The day shift may not be as active as he would like, but he is content with a job well done.

Either way, Baggett says he “loves his job.”

“It is definitely not an 8 to 5 desk job and can be overwhelming at times,” he said.

But he views his choice in law enforcement as a “career and not just a job. “

At some point in the day he will have to write the reports on the activities of the day. He can do them inside the patrol vehicle or at the office.

At the end of the day, he goes to refill the patrol vehicle with gasoline for the next officer who takes it out on patrol. He will go home to his young son who sees his father as a “superhero” who fights the bad guys and someone he hopes to be like someday. Baggett smiles when he talks of his son who sometimes wears a belt with his play guns to emulate him.

For now, his infant daughter is too young to realize what’s going on, but someday she too will see the man behind the badge and her hero too.

Orange Police Officer J.E. Baggett, arrests a man for outstanding fines. RECORD PHOTO: Debby Schamber.