Shelton native takes on New York City's mean streets

By BILL BITTAR, Correspondent, Monroe Courier

May 17, 2007

A call about a possible bar fight crackled over the radio, and two New York City police officers, accompanied by Shelton native and Housatonic Community College student Natalie Bomba, 21, flipped on the strobe lights and siren of their police cruiser before racing to the scene.

To reach their destination quickly, the driver sped the wrong way down a one-way street and rode up on the sidewalk at one point to get through the congested city traffic, as pedestrians dove out of the way.

"Oh yeah, the blood was pumping," Bomba, recalled of the adrenaline rush she'd felt.

Bomba, a Sacred Heart University security guard, was doing a ride-along with the New York City police of-ficers on May 5 as part of an extra-credit assignment for her introduction to law enforcement class at Housa-tonic. The Emmett O'Brien alumna hopes to have a career as an undercover police officer in New York City after she graduates.

"That's my big dream job," Bomba said. "From what I understand, it's the most challenging job in New York City law enforcement. It's the challenge and the risk that attracts me to it."

An undercover detective has to act like a chameleon and fit in anywhere, Bomba added.

From the time she watched U.S. Marshals and other law enforcement offi-cials escort criminal suspects in handcuffs to the federal courthouse in Bridgeport - where she helped her father, Louis, at his coffee stand as a young girl - Bomba knew she wanted to become a police officer.

"I would talk to them," Bomba said. "Once I got to know them, I wanted to do what they were doing, because they're helping people."

In addition to enrolling at Housatonic Community College as a criminal justice student, Bomba took a job with Securitas Security Services in Stamford last summer. She has been working in the same role at Sacred Heart since September.

While Bomba said she has gotten a lot out of being a security guard, she admitted it has not been quite as thrill-ing as the day she spent on the beat with two of New York's finest.

"In my nine months at SHU, I think I had as much action in that time span as I had in the six hours in New York," she said with a laugh.

After she earns her criminal justice degree at Housatonic, Bomba said she could apply for a job at any police department, which would send her to an academy for training.

Bomba's assignment

Fellow Shelton native, Vern Krill teaches Bomba's introduction to law enforcement and writing for law enforcement classes at Housatonic. Krill, a former Shelton police officer of 20 years, said he had the idea for the ride along this year, and 13 of his 20 students participated. After riding with police officers, Krill's students wrote reports about their experiences.

"We are just ecstatic over what we were able to ac-complish with the ride-along," Krill said, adding he also participated in the exercise to see how things have changed since he was a police officer.

While spending time in Shelton Police Sgt. Michael Lawrence's cruiser, Krill saw the computers officers now use to look up information, write reports and reconstruct accidents first hand.

"We used a pencil and paper when I was a police officer," Krill said. "The technology has changed so much. I have to stay current in my field of study, which is law enforcement."

Krill said some of his students were excited by the fact that they were able to see lessons learned in his classroom at work in the real world. He is considering making the ride-along a course requirement.

Local police departments who allowed Housatonic students to shadow their officers included Shelton, Fairfield, Stratford and Bridgeport. Krill said Bomba was the only student who arranged a ride-along in New York City.

"She's fantastic. She's an excellent student," Krill said of Bomba.

Book 'em

Bomba e-mailed New York Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly to set up her ride along and on May 5 she was supposed to spend two hours on the road during the 4 p.m. to noon shift.

But what started out as a slow day became more hectic in the end. As a result, Bomba and the two officers did not get back to the precinct until six hours had gone by - though she did not seem to mind.

The first call Bomba's squad car responded to was a fender-bender. A bus from Quebec had rear-ended a Lincoln Town Car. "Then we went to a couple more accidents that really didn't amount to anything," Bomba recalled.

The police officers later responded to what Bomba said is called a "gun run." The dispatcher radioed in a report of four armed men, wearing red shirts, standing at the corner of 41st and 9th streets.

"There were about 50 people on the corner and about 15 had red shirts," she said. "The red shirts means it's the Bloods," the notorious urban street gang.

She said 10 police cars, most carrying two officers, responded to the call. "Officers were searching...I believe for the guns," Bomba said. "I was told to stay in the car. I wore a bulletproof vest during the whole ride. It was lighter than I expected."

After 10 minutes, the officers Bomba was with had to leave the scene to respond to a grand larceny complaint at Mercedes Benz of Manhattan. A woman had brought her car there to be serviced, but when she arrived to pick it up she found that someone else had forged her signature and stolen the vehicle, according to Bomba. She watched the officers take down all of the pertinent details in the case before...

"We had to leave there right away," she said. "We went running out of there to go to, what I believe was, a bar fight. I'm not sure where it was or what it was, because I had to stay in car."

It was that call that led to the wild ride down a one-way street and onto city sidewalks. Three men and one woman were arrested and brought back to the pre-cinct.

"I watched them being searched," Bomba said. "One guy had a big gash on the right side of his face, from just above the eyebrow down to close to his ear. I think I heard on the radio that there was a barfight with weapons."

Male officers patted down the three men in the middle of the room, while a female officer searched the woman behind them.

"They were taking everything out of their pockets," Bomba said. "One guy had basketball shorts on under his jeans, and the officer pulled down the jeans to check the shorts."

The male suspects were placed in a holding cell, and the female suspect was issued a citation and released on a promise to appear in court, bringing Bomba's day to an end.

She said she was surprised at how calm the officers acted while in hectic, and sometimes dangerous, situations. "You'd think they'd be uptight, but they're really relaxed," she said.

Her ride-along did nothing to change her mind about joining the force one day. "I thought it was the best thing ever," Bomba said. "And I just want to get started. I want to get in there now."