“How you doin,’ Miss Linda?” Brownwood patrolman Troy Grusendorf called out as an elderly woman opened the front door of her modest home on Avenue I and waved at the lanky 38-year-old officer.
It was around 4:30 p.m. on a recent Friday afternoon, and Grusendorf — Unit 631, assigned to patrol an area known as the 47 District South — had been dispatched to the home of “Pops” and Linda Bessette on a criminal mischief call.
He spoke easily with the Bessettes, obviously familiar with the couple and their property. Their complaint: a hit-and-run driver had backed into their pickup truck hours earlier at Brookshire’s, causing a small dent in the tailgate.
For about two hours this Friday, a Bulletin reporter rode in the front passenger’s seat of Grusendorf’s patrol car. Grusendorf maneuvered the car along the streets of south-central Brownwood, seemingly at random — but Grusendorf knew precisely where he was going as he observed traffic, observed people.
In this two-hour span, Grusendorf mostly talked to people and listened to their problems. There were no weapons, no confrontations, no arrests.
It’s fun, Grusendorf said, to help people. It’s not fun to take people to jail and have them spit on you, he said.
Fellow patrolman James Fuller said he likes helping people feel safe.
“There is so much to law enforcement that deals strictly with talking to people and giving them a sense of safety, even when there's no true danger,” Fuller said. “I actually enjoy that part of the job and believe that helping is more of what we do than anything else.”
Police Chief Virgil Cowin said a lot of police work “is counseling and talking with people.”
The shift begins
Grusendorf was already on patrol when the 2 p.m. shift briefing began. He was the “early man out,” taking to the streets ahead of time to ease the logistics of the shift change.
The shift commander, Sgt. Randall Krpoun, sat at a desk at the front of a small briefing room. The patrolmen assigned to the shift arrived.
There weren’t many.
In addition to Krpoun and Grusendorf, the shift consisted of officers Dustin Bode, Fred Bastardo and Chandra Geis. The latter two officers were actually a single unit, as Bastardo was the training officer assigned to the rookie Geis.
“OK, we’ve got some new warrants,” Krpoun told the officers, calling out names and addresses of where the wanted people might be.
The officers discussed a recurring domestic situation that Bastardo and Geis had already responded to on an earlier shift. “This is an ongoing deal, Sergeant …” Bastardo explained.
“Today is Friday. It’s payday for most people, so be ready for something interesting,” Krpoun urged.
Grusendorf rattled off the streets that bordered his district, and his patrol car bucked and surged as he turned corners, drove straight for a little while, then turned more corners. He said he likes to vary his patrol patterns so lawbreakers can’t anticipate his route.
“There’s a drug house,” Grusendorf said, pointing out an innocuous-looking older home. Dopers, he said, will post lookouts who will sound an alarm via cell phone: “Po-po’s comin.’ ‘Five-O’s comin.’”
“You’ve got to be a man of integrity if you’re going to wear the uniform and badge,” Grusendorf said. “You’ve always got to do what’s right.”
Grusendorf, who grew up in Waco, has worked as a prison guard, a Texas Youth Commission guard, a jailer, a dispatcher and a reserve sheriff’s deputy. He said he believes God made it possible for him to become a Brownwood police officer.
He has a wife and four children, and ended up in Brownwood because his wife’s father lives here.
“Brownwood 631 … juvenile problem,” Grusendorf’s radio informed him. A couple of minutes later, Grusendorf parked at a home on Avenue B. Several foster children lived there, and one of them, a muscular-looking 15-year-old wearing a doo-rag, was angry and causing some problems.
Grusendorf was invited into the home, and he disappeared into a bedroom. “You don’t want to go to TYC,” he said, speaking soothingly to the teen.
“It’s been a month from hell,” a woman commented to no one in particular as she swept the wooden floor of a large, box-shaped room.
Grusendorf told the teen he was tying to be his friend and “knows what it’s like to be a the bottom of the barrel.” He shook the youth’s hand. “You’re in charge of your actions,” he said.
The teen had been angry, Grusendorf said later, but he had not committed an offense.
A few minutes, Grusendorf, stopped at a red light, lowered his window and spoke to the driver of an adjacent car. “You doin’ good, Bro? How’s life going for you? I’ve been praying for you,” Grusendorf said in a brief exchange that lasted until the light turned green.
He said the driver had, at one time, admitted to being on drugs.
“You’ve got to have a rapport with people. They’ve got to know you care,” he said.