By Russell Hixson
STILLWATER, Okla. —
It’s 4 p.m., and while many Perkins residents are getting ready to end their day, police officer Jason Galt is just beginning his. He works the late shift patrolling the city, performing traffic stops and responding to calls.
He often starts his shift by doing a horseshoe around the city and then works his way in. With a little more than two square miles to work with, it doesn’t take too long.
“Sometimes you feel you’re like a gerbil spinning inside a wheel,” he said, smiling.
Often drivers with warrants will try to avoid the center of town by using these roads, Galt said. But it doesn’t seem like that’s the case today. He pulls onto a gravel parking lot on State Highway 33 to watch for traffic violations, and a few traffic stops produce warnings.
It’s a typical shift for the eight-year veteran of the Perkins Police Department.
Galt is a retired Marine and it shows. His hair is shaved nearly bald, his clothes are clean and pressed, his posture is upright and alert like a salute. He joined the Marines a week after graduating high school — something he had always wanted to do.
“It’s part of the American dream,” he said.
He was part of a Marine Corps unit out of Oklahoma City that was trained to use artillery and was deployed to Iraq in 2006 and 2007. His unit did convoy and detaining operations, meaning they would house insurgents and then transport them to longer term facilities.
He said being a Marine helped him develop discipline and understanding that there has to be a balance between compassion and firmness in everything.
When he saw an opportunity to join the Perkins police force, he realized it was a perfect fit.
“I wanted to be a part of a community that was going to continue to grow and not stay stagnant,” Galt said.
Police work also appeals to him in ways money or fancy titles never could.
“You know you’ve made your community and this county a little bit safer,” Galt said. “That brings a certain level of satisfaction most jobs can’t touch.” While Galt may enjoy his job, it isn’t without its challenges. Most of the time police officers are expected to make common sense decisions but sometimes they are expected to make extremely complex and delicate ones in a split second — like deciding to pursue a suspect in a vehicle. Or it can be deciding to take a young boy away from a family that might abuse him, a decision Galt recently had to make.
To cope with the stress, Galt straps on his tennis shoes and runs it off.
“Sometimes that takes three miles and sometimes that takes 10 miles,” he said.
Looking back on his eight years with the department, Galt sees his mistakes, poor decisions and moments he could have shown more compassion. It motivates him to be better.
He recalled an incident in which he pulled over a man for not wearing a seatbelt. The man’s license was suspended and he protested. Galt humored the man and ran several checks. The man took his opportunity and fled, later turning himself in.
“That was a wakeup call,” Galt said. It’s easy to get used to traffic stops when one does hundreds of them. One never knows what can happen on patrol. Some nights it’s calm and other times it’s not. In other jobs one has a pretty good idea what their day is going to look like.
“We don’t have that luxury,” Galt said.