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Sunday, June 04, 2023

Editor's note: This is the final part of a two-part series about veteran UPD officers.

The safety net

UPD is used to treating UF as a "small city," one that keeps patrol officers busy with bizarre calls and amusing situations. Sgt. Walt Hamby has had a full-time job with UPD for almost 20 years, which has led to many stories in his patrol arsenal that are usually too "inappropriate" to share, he said.

A memory that stuck out in Hamby's mind was when he was performing a routine patrol early one morning and he found a student lying in the grass behind Graham and Trusler halls. The student, who had obviously been drinking, asked to be taken home.

When the student couldn't recognize his residence, Hamby realized he had been visiting from Florida State University.

"He thought he was in Tallahassee on FSU's campus," Hamby chuckled.

The Patrol Division constantly has to be observant and prepared to respond to calls concerning students, Gainesville residents and visitors.

While Officer Ray Metrick waited for a potential DUI last Friday night, a suspicious call popped up on his computer screen.

He went from being parked in the lot to speeding 50 mph down Museum Road in seconds. He was rushing to support another officer in case the situation turned ugly.

A few street lamps illuminated UF's Surge Area off Archer Road. A little sports car was parked under gnarled branches that rocked from the cold wind. A flashing police car was already there, and two police officers were conversing in concentration.

Metrick stepped out of the car and into the cold. Other cars zoomed by on Archer Road as he ambled over to join the other officers. It was a DUI.

A man who looked to be in his 30s stumbled and swayed his way through his early-morning field sobriety tests.

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He couldn't touch his nose or walk a straight line. The breathalyzer back at the station would read that his blood alcohol content was well over twice the legal limit.

Metrick helped administer the field sobriety tests with an unruffled patience that comes with years of experience. He had rushed to the scene before anyone could assign him the task. As he lay down silver tape on the uneven road, an unspoken trust flowed between the three officers.

Every officer had help only minutes away that night. Metrick described law enforcement as a type of "brotherhood," an unspoken dedication to assist new officers and to admire police who have been active in law enforcement for a decade or more.

"There's always an understanding that you've been around," he remarked.

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