Sometimes, police work is a numbers game

The Grandview Police Department revealed its secret weapon last week.

It’s math.

Police Officer Martin Studdard, who is part of the traffic unit, spent several days visiting seventh- and eighth-grade algebra classes at Grandview Middle School, sharing how math is an essential investigative and crime-fighting tool.

“When I got into law enforcement, I honestly didn’t realize how much math was a big part of the job,” Studdard admitted. “When I was in seventh and eighth grade, I hated algebra because I didn’t think I would ever use it. But as an adult, I have been proven wrong time and time again. Now I use math every single day.”

On Friday morning, Studdard revealed to an eighth-grade algebra class how algebraic formulas — similar to the ones they learn in class — are frequently used to reconstruct traffic accident scenes.

Officers calculate the angles of the cars involved, the distance of the skid marks and time elements, so they can piece together what caused an accident and exactly how it happened.

He also emphasized the importance of double-checking the answers.

“Checking my math is vital in my job, because if I slip up, it could result in a wrongful prosecution,” Studdard pointed out. “I don’t want someone innocent to go to jail, or someone guilty to get away, because of my mathematical mistakes.”

He also used math to show the teenagers how dangerous cellphones, and other distractions, can be while driving.

He pointed out that in four seconds on the highway a car goes the distance of more than a football field.

So when eyes are off the road for four seconds while checking a text, anything can happen and lives can change.

“Right now, these kids are being driven around by their older friends and in a year and a half, they’re going to have a permit,” Studdard said. “If they remember just one thing from today, I hope it’s that four-second lesson. We can help save lives on our highways.”

This is the second year that the Grandview Police Department has presented at math classes at the middle school.

Algebra teacher Rachel Butler enjoys the collaboration because she feels it’s important that teenagers realize how much math affects daily life.

“Kids are always asking me, ‘Why do we need to know this stuff?’ ” she said. “They don’t realize that whether you’re a police officer or doctor, you use math all the time. You use math even when you’re at the store, figuring out a sale price.”

She was delighted that on a Friday morning, kids were not only paying close attention to Studdard’s presentation, but enthusiastically answering his questions.

One of those eighth-grade students was Vanessa Aceves, who found the topic interesting.

“I was really surprised by how important math is for police officers,” she said. “I really enjoyed it because not only is math my favorite subject, but I want to be a police officer one day. Now I’m going to store all of this stuff in my mind.”

The positive attitude most of the middle school students have towards the program is one of the reasons that Police Officer Doug Thacker started it in 2012.

He pointed out that most people’s interaction with the police is when they’re at their worst — getting a speeding ticket or getting arrested. To think of police officers in a bad light, as a result, is human nature.

But he wants people, especially kids, to realize there’s another side to the uniform.

“These kids get to see an officer in a positive light, where he’s laughing and joking with them,” Thacker said. “We’re hoping they’ll be more comfortable when they see officers in public from now on. We want them to run toward the badge, not run away from it.”