Riding along with the GVPD

GVL / Emily Frye   
GVPD during a traffic stop on Saturday October 28, 2017.

GVL / Emily Frye GVPD during a traffic stop on Saturday October 28, 2017.

Karina Lloyd

For the fourth annual Grand Valley Lanthorn ride-along with the Grand Valley State University Police Department, staff writer Karina Lloyd and Image Editor Emily Frye were invited to spend Homecoming evening with Sgt. Jeff Stoll, the officer on duty.

9:25 p.m. “We just finished briefing, and we’re going to hit the road to make our rounds for the night.”

The evening began as most patrols do for Stoll, with some classic throwback tunes and a can of orange Mountain Dew “Live Wire.” As he began making his rounds, Journey’s classic song “Don’t Stop Believin’” made its way through the radio static, creating “the perfect way to start the night,” according to Stoll. 

The evening shift is always special on the weekend of Halloween. The air is cooler, the night is darker and the subjects being called in add a bit of humor to the long hours of work. Stoll, who began his shift around 9:30 p.m. and worked into the early morning, remarked how it’s always funny hearing an officer call in a subject “in a red shirt and a cowboy hat” rather than the subject’s usual everyday descriptions.  

9:51 p.m. “Responded to a narcotics report in Murray. Officers unable to identify a suspect.”

Stoll was responding to a report disclosing that there had been a strong scent of marijuana within the halls of the Mark A. Murray Living Center. The smell inside the building was potent. Stoll said the strong scent implied that the marijuana was fresh, not burnt, and that the narcotics were brand new. 

Stoll made his way through the hall and trudged through the rain-soaked lawn behind the dorms to try to identify the subject, but a suspect was not found at that time. Though a suspect was not found, Stoll later talked about how he loves cases that take a bit more investigative work.

10:16 p.m. “Traffic stop on account of an expired license plate. Subject had been cited earlier in the day for the same offense. Verbal warning only.”

Driving near 48th Avenue and Fillmore Street, Stoll’s attention was drawn to a green sticker on the back of a license plate. The color had been changed within the past year, implying that the plate may have been expired. Sure enough, after scanning the plate, Stoll confirmed that it had expired in July. The young man in the car explained to Stoll that he was pulled over and issued a ticket on his way into the city earlier that day. Using the software on his mobile data terminals (or MDTs), the computer in the squad car, Stoll was able to confirm the story and consequently let the driver off with only a verbal warning. 

11:20 p.m. “Observed extremely heavy bus traffic. Could be a safety hazard.”

As the night continued, Stoll observed the increased number of students at the bus stop making their way to off-campus apartments. By taking note of the number of people at the bus stop, he is able to get a feel for the activity he will see later in the evening. With each bus that came, students packed themselves onto the bus, causing some students to spread out into the street. Luckily, things did not escalate and a safe environment was maintained.

Stoll also took this time to interact with the students. 

“We’d like to commend The Purge costume on the great work,” he said through the squad car megaphone. “We also like the cookie monster costume.”

The moment Stoll began speaking to the kids, there was an instant look of panic and uncertainty on their faces. Yet, after they heard his lighthearted comments, their initial fear melted away, leaving a series of smiles and a lot of laughter. 

“Our community rapport deals a lot with the types of interactions that you have with the people that are part of your community,” Stoll said. “And while sometimes police are viewed as negative, we have the opportunity to strive as a department to have positive interactions. … We have the ability to casually talk with students as we’re walking through (campus). 

“We try to be very visible, and when we do that, we’re able to talk with them and make jokes and make comments, and hopefully that creates the perception and feeling that we are there to support them.”

11:20 p.m. “Fire alarm set off in Johnson Living Center. Cause was steam from a shower. No actual fire.”

The causes for fire alarms being set off on campus rarely are actual fires. The most common cause is cooking. The other causes usually are vaping, steam from the shower and also heat rising from hair styling tools like straighteners and curlers. Stoll reminded us that vaping in the dorms is against policy here at GVSU.

11:26 p.m. “Lights go out in Lubbers Stadium for the night.”

11:47 p.m. “Assisted an officer who called in alcohol complaint. Subjects were cited and then released.”

Stoll assisted another officer when three students were issued tickets in the parking lot of Evolve Student Living for being minors in possession of alcohol (MIP). In preparation for the increased Halloween activity, six patrol cars were sent out around campus. This is in comparison to the four cars that are sent out during a normal weekend and three cars that patrol during the weekdays. GVPD also teamed up with the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office to ensure the community’s safety during Halloween weekend in the areas surrounding campus.

12:07 a.m. “Loud party in Mystic Apartments. Over 100 people. Party dispersed.”

Stoll was also made aware of a spike in students headed toward the Mystic Woods apartments. He smiled as he recalled spending time in the Mystic apartments with friends when he was a GVSU student. Upon arrival, it was clear that one apartment was overflowing with students. Stoll shined his police car spotlights on the garage where there was a lot of activity. After shining his light, he stepped out of the car and began talking to a few students near the squad car. As he spoke, the crowd slowly dispersed from the party as word of his arrival spread. 

“Part of our goal here (is to) prevent (the party) from getting any bigger now so it doesn’t escalate into anything worse,” Stoll said. 

12:58 a.m. “Traffic stop off Pierce resulted in an arrest for no license and warrant. Subjects transported to Grand Rapids.”

After leaving Mystic, Stoll pulled to the side of Pierce Street to assist two other squad cars. The driver who was pulled over was unable to produce a license. The passenger had two warrants out for his arrest, too. After questioning, the pair were arrested and transported to Grand Rapids police, who would then take them to Kent County jail to take care of the arrest warrant.

2:08 a.m. “Just did a code run to Robinson.”

2:08 a.m. “Alcohol overdose medical in Lot D. Subject transported to the hospital.”

The red, white and blue lights of the squad car flashed and sirens rang as Stoll “ran code,” speeding to GVSU Lot D. A woman had returned to campus intoxicated, and her friends had called the police after realizing she needed medical attention. The woman was transported by medical personnel to a local hospital. 

Following the incident, Stoll talked to her friends about the importance of calling 911 when someone’s life is in danger, even if they also have been drinking. Michigan law grants amnesty to underage drinkers if they called the police to ensure the safety of someone else. 

“On an alcohol medical situation, there is a law out there that talks about medical amnesty in which certain situations friends are seeking a medical response for their troubled friend,” Stoll said. “They are immune from criminal prosecution to underage alcohol consumption, which is why we like to encourage students, when their friends are in crisis, to contact us so we can give them the care they need without fear of any criminal repercussions.”

3:21 a.m. “Worked hard and off shift now or, as they say in the police world, 10-42!” 

The radio police code “10-42” signals an end of a shift. The night was full of excitement, and the Lanthorn staff is thankful to the GVPD and Stoll for providing this opportunity to give the GVSU community a glimpse into the GVPD night rounds.