COLUMBIA — A car speeds down Providence Boulevard, followed by blue and red lights flashing and a siren piercing the mid-Missouri air. Over a public address system a booming voice tells the driver to pull over — immediately.
Officer Cynthia Crowe strides up to the window of the vehicle with a heightened sense of awareness, ready for anything. She uses her eyes and ears to detect anything that might pose a threat to herself or the driver.
Crowe, who has worked the Shepard neighborhood beat for the past three years, joined the Columbia Police Department because she wanted to provide something to her community.
The Shepard neighborhood is relatively crime-free, she said. She has responded to a few instances of items being stolen from unlocked cars and normal traffic issues, such as speeding.
Crowe started out as a reserve officer for the police department after moving to the city 16 years ago.
"I actually thought that would be a way to get involved in the community and learn my way around," Crowe said.
As a reserve officer, Crowe worked as a volunteer for at least 24 hours a month with all the authority of a full-time officer. She went through about 100 hours of training for the job.
Crowe was a reserve officer for two and a half years, at which point she realized that this was what she wanted to do full time.
"It wasn't a career that I set out to do, but once I was a reserve officer I thought that this would be a really great career and here I am — 15 years later," Crowe said.
Although police work is time-consuming, Crowe does make time to interact with the people living in the Shepard neighborhood. She attended the Shepard Neighborhood's annual picnic in August.
Rod Robison, president of the Shepard Neighborhood Association, said Crowe interacted well with the residents.
"She has a good disposition and seems interested in the neighborhood, and I have to give her credit for going out to our picnic," Robison said. "I think it shows that she has an interest in her job and trying to get to know the people that she's out there protecting."
For Crowe, it's about helping people and making them feel safe in their homes.
"The folks appreciate us a lot there and that's one of the perks of the job when people really, really appreciate your presence instead of frowning when you show up," Crowe said.
The job's "perks" are numerous, Crowe said, citing the variety of work, not sitting behind a desk, being out and about and dealing with a wide variety of people.
"I could deal with a homeless person one hour and the next hour I could be dealing with the president of a company, and anything in between," Crowe said. "The variety of work and the people is one of the things I enjoy the best."
Crowe's training involved more than 600 hours of intense work with firearms and self defense, knowledge of constitutional and statutory law and an understanding of psychology and human behavior.
Her bachelor's in psychology from Arizona State University gave her an advantage in dealing with people on the job.
Additionally, she has a degree in criminal justice from Columbia College.
Even with both her degrees, every day is a learning experience for Crowe.
"You're constantly learning about lots of different things as an officer," Crowe said. "There are lots and lots of opportunities to learn different things."
Crowe describes herself as a jack-of-all-trades on the job, but she still makes time to have fun. She enjoys riding her bike and motorcycle, working in her yard, reading and traveling around the country.
Something that most people don't know about Crowe is she has shook the hand of President Barrack Obama.
When Obama visited Columbia as a presidential candidate, Crowe was assigned to work security at his hotel. As he was leaving, Obama shook Crowe's hand.
"I always say it's a privilege to be a police officer and that was one of the privileges," Crowe said.
This is just one of many stories that Crowe has about her time on the force. She said she has trouble thinking of just one interesting story.
"It's all interesting, once you think you've seen it all and then you go to the next call and it's something totally new and different and amazing."