The Pacifican gets first hand look at Halloween patrol
Campus security. Public Safety. The local police force dedicated to making the campus a safer place and saving intrepid college students from any outside force or themselves. In their heroic quest to defend the lowliest of the student body, campus security tirelessly patrols the grounds of our University, rain or shine, day or night.
Yet, despite such lofty ideals, many students do not know what goes on during these officers’ nightly patrols. Some do, mostly because they were caught doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing.
To find out what happens on one of these nights, I chose to ride along with an officer. And I chose Halloween night to do so, a night full of goblins, ghouls and inebriated college students looking for the next party. Also, I thought Halloween was when all the craziest stuff went down.
I was set to ride along with the officer from midnight until 2-3 a.m., so it was technically Halloween night when this all happened. I was to meet the officer at the Department of Public Safety, next to the Wellness Center.
The first thing I learned that night was that the University has cameras set up pretty much everywhere they could possibly be set up, including in some of the buildings.
And there’s always someone watching the feed. Big Brother (or Big Tiger) is always watching.
After watching an officer scroll through various video feeds for about 10 minutes, I met Officer Park, the officer I would be riding along with. Lucky for us, a call had just come in: a noise complaint for a party getting too rowdy.
Officer Park explained the basic process of a nightly patrol on our way to the site of the complaint. Officers work 10-hour shifts, and the patrols basically consisted of them driving around the campus looking for something suspicious or answering calls. The calls were usually innocuous.
We arrived at the site of the noise complaint. Officer Park went to get the owners of the house as I wondered if I was going to see a party get shut down. Two very confused looking students came out of the house and explained the situation. Another officer arrived to assist Officer Park as they attempted to gain more information. Meanwhile, I stood by the police van observing an incredibly drunk student caress a cat he had for some reason. Whether it was a stray or his pet I couldn’t tell you. So far this night wasn’t too crazy.
Officer Park returned to the van and explained the confusion. The noise complaint was actually for across the street. Across the street was the back of the Chem Building. I don’t think people party behind the Chem Building, but you never know.
He suspected that a group of students from the party at the house we were just at probably congregated behind the Chem Building while looking for the next party and someone called it in. Guess I would be seeing detective work during this night as well. We resumed our patrol.
I took that opportunity to ask Officer Park about the kinds of things he’s seen on patrol.
“Normal stuff. Noise complaints. Drunk students coming back from parties. We don’t really do anything about the students unless they’re passed out or can barely walk home by themselves. In those cases we’d just call a medical transport.”
He then went on to mention that he has seen people passed out in gutters and the one time someone was streaking down the street because he was playing truth or dare.
After passing the drunk guy with the cat again he pulled over a driver who was driving without their lights on. Once he turned the police lights on I couldn’t help but play the “Cops” theme song in my head. The driver was let off with a warning. Then we pulled over another driver who was driving without their lights on — apparently that’s a common occurrence.
The rest of the night was just patrolling and answering noise complaints. I was struck by how amicable the officers were with students. The stereotype of the belligerent college student not wanting to talk to the buzzkill cop didn’t hold true here. Officer Park and the others would just have a nice conversation with the students after telling them to keep the party down.
Officer Park told me that they, as cops, wanted to get rid of this negative image people have of them as buzzkills or corrupt or racists. Unfortunately, this image has surged a bit due to the recent bouts of police brutality in places like Ferguson, Mo.
“Yeah, some cops are bad. But most of us are just doing our job. We’re doing this because we want to make this place better. There’s always going to be people who think you’re bad, but we try to build a rapport with students so we can show them a positive image,” he explained.
I dwelled on that as we passed all the parties and groups of people. In between seeing the 10th sorority sister dressed a cat and the horde of zombie-like drunk college students pretending to be sober around the cops, I thought about how the cops really are just doing their jobs.
They keep us as students safe and at most they tell us to turn our music down. If we don’t mess with them they won’t mess with us. There’s a degree of respect shared between student and officer that some seem to forget. They go out of their way to help us out. As if to punctuate this point, Officer Park gave two college students a ride from McCaffrey to the Townies since it was past 2 a.m. and Stripes had stopped taking calls.
Sure, it wasn’t the craziest night — Officer Park told me most nights aren’t — but it was still illuminating. Public Safety has a job, and they do that job well. This ride along was a glimpse into their daily routine and their beliefs on how they treat students. Instead of seeing arguments or doors getting kicked in, I saw conversations and warnings, as it should be. It’s a trusting relationship between student and officer.