Ride along shows daily life ‘on the other side of the door’

A traffic stop is executed by Officer Stoll during homecoming weekend

Nicole Lamson

A traffic stop is executed by Officer Stoll during homecoming weekend

Chelsea Lane

Homecoming weekend is typically one of the biggest events of the year, both for students and the Department of Public Safety officers trying to keep them safe. Saturday night, I arrived at the DPS station for a ride-along with Officers Nate Dornbos and Jeffrey Stoll to get a better idea of what life is like “on this side of the door,” as Officer Stoll calls it.

It has already been a busy day for the entire DPS crew. Aside from the Homecoming football game, they’ve also had to deal with a student falling through a skylight from the Fieldhouse roof and another student who tried to fight Officer Dornbos. But the night is just beginning …

10:50 p.m. – We leave the station.

10:57 p.m. – The first stop of the night is for two males holding open beer containers. Both are over 21, so no tickets are given out. Although it’s technically illegal to carry open containers in public, Officer Dornbos just advises them of the law before leaving.

11:19 p.m. – Two males with open cans are stopped, but the cans turn out to be lemonade, not alcohol. Officer Stoll classifies the stop as “a misfire” and notes “it’s so hard to tell with cans.”

11:25 p.m. – Two girls appear to be running from the squad car, but further observation shows they were only doing cartwheels on their lawn. “That was pretty solid; I’ll give them that,” Officer Stoll said of the cartwheels.

11:35 p.m. – A suspicious driver stop yields no tickets after the driver passes a field sobriety test.

11:48 p.m. – We stop to watch a game of beer pong through an open window for a few moments before driving on. The officers note they would be more likely to break up a party after 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. but decide to let it be since it’s still early in the night.

11:50 p.m. – Some Campus View residents are watching “Aladdin” outside on a homemade projector screen, and we admire their set-up while driving by.

11:54 p.m. – The officers stop to help another officer with a car of six girls who are suspected MIPs. After talking with the girls individually and administering some field sobriety tests, they decide to let them off with a warning. “Every year it’s a new client base, so the re-education process kind of has to start again,” Officer Dornbos notes.

12:14 a.m. – We depart for Mystic Woods Apartments. The officers anticipate some conflict as their previous visits to the complex resulted in multiple confrontations with residents. But tonight, everything seems quiet. Overall, both officers believe the number of arrests and disturbances have decreased since last year. Officer Dornbos explains the university has been promoting having smaller, quieter gatherings rather than inviting 60 or 70 people to a single party.

12:33 a.m. – The officers stop to break up two girls who are about to fight outside of a large party. The fight and the party are ended.

1:14 a.m. – We stop for gas and some much-needed caffeine.

1:47 a.m. – The officers respond to an attempted suicide in one of the on-campus living centers. The student has hung himself, but was discovered in time by a roommate, who called police. Both officers are familiar with the student from a previous attempt. The student appears to be physically unharmed despite visible ligature marks on his neck, and he is transported to the hospital.

2:27 a.m. – A group of students flag down the squad car to report a hit and run accident where a vehicle hit two parked cars. The students managed to get the vehicle’s license plate number, which Officer Stoll runs through the police database and uses to find the suspect’s name. The suspect lives in another county, so the case is transferred to another police department.

2:40 a.m.- A student calls 911 to report that his friend, a non-student, is experiencing chest pain and an increased heart rate after drinking. The non-student has a history of arrhythmia, but the caller refuses to give any further information as the non-student is in medical school and is worried about the legal consequences underage drinking may have on his career. The caller will not disclose their location, so dispatch puts out an all-points bulletin to “look for panicking teens.”

We search the south end of campus for a few minutes with no luck. Officer Stoll calls the student and says they are more concerned with the friend’s health than giving out MIP tickets, but the student still refuses to give up their location. While Officer Stoll is on the phone, Officer Dornbos spots the two boys in their parked car, giving the friend’s already-straining heart a run for its money; he looks beyond shocked that they’ve been found. A first aid officer is brought on scene to talk to the friend, and medical personnel arrives later. No tickets are given out.

“The concern is that this is a medical situation first rather than a liquor law violation,” Officer Stoll explains. “We don’t want people to be afraid to call 911 and then their friend is dead.”

3:15 a.m. – The officers stop a student walking on the side of the road who says he decided to walk home from work since the weather was nice. The student appears nervous, but admits his nerves stem from a previous MIP charge two years ago. He passes a field sobriety test and his story checks out, so the officers send him on his way.

3:40 a.m. – The officers stop a suspicious driver. The subject is shirtless and chewing his gum very intensely. Officer Dornbos informs the subject he must spit out his gum before taking a PBT test, so the subject sticks the gum to the roof of his car. Despite the odd behavior, the subject passes both the PBT and field sobriety tests. As we drive off, the subject removes the gum from the roof of his car and gets back inside the vehicle.

“You know that’s going right back in his mouth,” Officer Stoll notes.

3:57 a.m. – We arrive back at the station. Although I’m tired, tonight is just another ordinary night for the DPS officers. They admit tonight was a bit slower than expected, especially considering that it’s Homecoming weekend but also acknowledge it’s a positive outcome for the community when they have fewer calls to respond to. The officers still have paperwork to fill out inside the station, but it’s time for this reporter to call it a night.

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