An inside look at a St. Pete police officer

The laptop in Officer Bryan Rentas-Pina’s car beeped and the bottom corner flashed red. Rentas-Pina scrolled through the information regarding the latest call. An 8-year-old boy walking home from school never made it.

Rentas-Pina rushed to the school, and talked to the YMCA after-school program employees. After a call to the principal, it was discovered that the boy had been found.

Rentas-Pina, 31 and married, has been with the St. Petersburg Police Department for five years. Originally from Puerto Rico, he says he moved here when he was 12 or 13. He’s always wanted to be a police officer and was inspired by his uncle, who was a police officer in Puerto Rico.

In his five years as a police officer, the only injury he’s sustained is a cut thumb, which required stitches, he says.

He also says that he lives in Tampa and didn’t want to move to St. Petersburg. According to a recent Tampa Bay Times story, about 60 percent of the police department’s 524 officers live outside of the city and nearly a third outside of Pinellas County.

“I don’t want to live where I work; it’s common in this job.”

This job sees him patrolling District 1 of St. Petersburg, which is roughly the area between First Avenue S and 54th Avenue S and 34th Street S and Fourth Street.

He says that in his district, there are between 14 and 15 officers patrolling at a time and that there are five shifts of 10-hour durations.

Rentas-Pina’s shift is from 2 p.m. to midnight and says the officers change shifts every six months. They get Saturday through Monday off for the first three months and Tuesday through Thursday off for the other three months.

On most days, he will not go to many calls, but one Tuesday he responded to 15 calls. He said that “it really is a lot.”

The majority of those calls took less than 10 minutes to deal with. In nearly every instance, another patrolling officer joined Rentas-Pina. He says that it depends on the call for another officer to meet him.

The calls ranged from a stolen five dollars to a fight on a street. No matter the call, each required a report to fill out.

Rentas-Pina figures that he’s done about 2,000 reports over his five year career. “I’ve probably written several books.”

Initially, it was difficult to write that much he says, because English is his second language.

He does all of his reports on the laptop in his patrol car. He relies heavily on the Internet do his job, from receiving incoming calls to checking his email.

All of those things are done in between calls. Rentas-Pina usually finds a parking lot or – if he’s short on time- while driving to respond to call.

When he’s not filling out reports or driving to the latest incident, Rentas-Pina is on break. He says that during his shift, he gets a “40 minute food break.” During that time he doesn’t have to respond to any calls unless there’s no one else to take it.

Not only is his laptop important, but the car itself.

Initially, his patrol car was not his personal car. Before, he drove his own car to the station and switched to the patrol car for his shift. He says it took him four years to get a car to take home.

“Things move slow,” he says.

There are other important items in the front of the car. Located behind the front seats is a shotgun. Rentas-Pina says that he doesn’t like to use it too much. Once he takes it out, he says that’s when it’s considered being “married to your weapon”, since it cannot be stored as a handgun can.

In the trunk, which can be opened with the press of a button on the dashboard, is a riot shield. Rentas-Pina says he’s the only one in his district who carries one.

The other officers in his district are also an important part of his job. Rentas-Pina relies on them since on most calls he is joined by at least one other.

On that Tuesday, he worked with a total of five officers.

There were times when he and the other officers would joke about the latest call they were on.

Rentas-Pina does take his job seriously despite the occasional banter and joking around. He says that he always has to keep his eyes open, as everything can be normal and turn so suddenly.

“Once you put the uniform on, all lives are on you.”