Columbia police Officer Brad Anderson marched down Ninth Street with a friendly smile during Thursday’s Twilight Festival.
“We are here more for show. It’s really good PR,” Anderson said. “You are more approachable to citizens on foot patrol.”
Most of his time at the festival is spent answering questions. People ask him questions for directions, about his job and for parenting advice.
“In 4 hours, I’ll get 3 to 5 people an hour,” Anderson said. “Everybody says that no question is a stupid question, but I don’t believe that.”
He said people ask him about license plate registration information, or if he has ever had to draw his gun. Other people just want to talk.
Anderson said he has encountered few major problems at the Twilight Festival. The biggest problem, he said, is when unsupervised teens begin to congregate around the Boone County Courthouse. From the courthouse they move to the armory, then to Park Street, then to the Providence Road area near Douglass Park. He said police try to prevent large groups from congregating because they breed fights and are harder to manage.
“We try to break the large group into smaller groups. There haven’t been any major issues, but it can wear down on people who are there to have a good time,” Anderson said.
But some teens said they are not all troublemakers.
“It’s really annoying because it rubs off on all of us,” said Zane Lee, 15.
Anderson said he doesn’t think the problem is just large groups of teenagers hanging out.
“I think its not so much that they congregate. It’s the lack of parental supervision,” Officer Anderson said.
Anderson’s three daughters, Ashley, Allison and Amanda, had sports games Thursday so they were not at the Twilight Festival. But, he said, when they do come, they stay with his wife.
Anderson has been a police officer for 15 years. He spent six years working in Columbia and nine years working in the Joplin area. He and his family moved to Columbia because, he said, it’s “perfectly in-between my wife’s family and my family in Iowa.”
Anderson enlisted in the Army after he graduated from high school. He served six years of active duty and has been in the Army Reserves for almost 20 years.
“Military money paid for all my college and it gave me discipline and let me travel,” he said.
He started dating his wife, Amy, while they were both stationed in Honduras in 1992. Amy Anderson works for the Missouri National Guard in Jefferson City.
Anderson, who worked as a military policeman in Germany, became a civilian police officer while he was in Fort Leonard Wood.
“I really enjoy patrol and I usually work midnight. So I work 11 p.m. to 7 a.m,” he said. “I sleep between 8 and 3.”
His schedule allows Anderson to spend more time with his family. He said he likes to keep his work separate from family time.
“I don’t tell a lot of cop stories when I’m home because I don’t bring my work home,” he said.
Despite this separation, Anderson’s eldest daughter spent this week at the Columbia Police Department’s Youth Academy, which exposed her to her father’s work.
On an average day of patrol, Anderson said he sees incidents of possession of narcotics, domestic assault and the occasional burglary or robbery.
But in the six years that he has been coming to the Twilight Festival, Anderson said he has arrested only one person.
“The biggest thing I look for are the aggressive type of people,” he said.
Every now and then there is a fight, like the one Fred Manuel saw Thursday. He said “two sets of girls started fussing there,” pointing to the intersection of Broadway and Ninth Street. He broke apart one set of girls and someone broke up the other set.
But Anderson said scuffles are not the norm at the festival. After four hours of foot patrol, working the Twilight Festival is a change of pace. But on his personal time, Anderson likes to keep the two worlds apart.
“I don’t try to put it out there that I’m a police officer because I try to leave my work at work,” he said. “But if someone is in need of assistance, I’m not afraid to jump in and say ‘Hey, I’m a police officer, I can help you with this.’”