GVPD doles out 23 MIPs during homecoming weekend

GVL / Anya Zentmeyer
Officer Stoll administers a preliminary breath test

Anya Zentmeyer

GVL / Anya Zentmeyer Officer Stoll administers a preliminary breath test

With the heightened activity of students on and off campus this Homecoming/Halloween weekend comes the heightened activity of the Grand Valley Police Department, which activated the $13,000 Youth Alcohol Enforcement grant from the Office of Highway Safety and Planning to increase personnel on Friday and Saturday night.

Officer Jeff Stoll agreed to let me sit on his 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. road patrol on Saturday night, and for five glorious hours I got to watch the brows of others furrow in worry as we passed during what may very well be the only time I will ever get to ride in a cop car while still feeling completely at ease.

We pulled out on the road a little after 10 p.m., making a few uneventful probation check-ins at off-campus apartment complexes. Stoll is manager of the probation list, which fluctuates at around 100 people at any given time. The nature and severity of the probation varies from person to person, but as a rule, those with an active probation violation are prohibited from the use or consumption of both alcohol and narcotics and are subject to random check-ins. Only one of the students was actually home when we knocked, but he passed his sobriety test and we went on our way.

10:39 p.m. — Stoll assisted officers Zoulek and Dornbos on a traffic stop and possible operations driving while intoxicated case on West Campus Drive near Meadows Golf Course. After smelling marijuana in the car, the driver consented to a search and admitted that she had smoked in the last couple of days but was not under the influence at the time. Stoll issued a few sobriety tests and said the driver did not exhibit any physical signs of someone who was under the influence of marijuana. The driver and passengers were released without any charges.

“Especially if we don’t find anything, we send them on their way as soon as possible,” Stoll said.

12:02 a.m. — Stoll responded to a call from Officer Leah Westrate on Lake Michigan Drive by the front entrance to the Allendale Campus. What started as a speeding ticket escalated into a more serious offense when they discovered open containers of alcohol as well as a small amount of marijuana in the vehicle. The driver had a suspended license, was charged with failure to comply with judgment and was issued a citation for the open containers. The marijuana was confiscated, but he was not charged for possession.

The passenger, an underage male, submitted to a PBT test, and with a blood alcohol content of .05 as a minor, was issued a minor in possession citation.

Stoll said when marijuana possession is a factor, it is up to the officer heading up the situation to decide whether or not to charge the offender for possession.

12:55 a.m. — As I let my first yawn escape, Stoll told me we’re heading into the “second phase” of the night. After midnight, he said, typically speaking, alcohol consumption increases significantly.

“The saying that nothing good happens after midnight is pretty true,” he said. “But nothing good happens after 2 a.m.”

Needless to say, he made after midnight sound way more awesome than before midnight, and right on cue, we were off on another call.

12:59 a.m. — Stoll responded to a call for assist at off-campus townhouse complex Hillcrest, where Dornbos and Zoulek had stopped two females and one male in the parking lot. We’d gotten there a few minutes after the three had been apprehended, but Dornbos said when they pulled up one of the female students was naked in the back of the car trying to change out of her ironic sexy police officer costume, while the other was vomiting on the sidewalk next to the vehicle. After taking their information, officers discovered that all three were underage and failed their PBT tests.

The two females were charged with MIPs and released, but the 19-year-old male was revealed to be under violation of his probation for prior drug charges, which constitutes arrest.

You heard me right, GVSU. Arrest. Now I can say I’ve been to the Ottawa County Jail — but unlike the male probation violator, I got to keep all of my jewelry on.

This was probably the most intense of the situations I encountered on the ride-along. The male, who was apprehended in the back of the vehicle, was very vocal about his disapproval of the situation, and kept letting me know he was on the verge of a bipolar episode while the officers handled another MIP citation across the parking lot.

After giving me a quick backgrounder on his hectic in-and-out-of-jail and on-and-off-of-probation saga, I suggested he lie low for a while, so that maybe he wouldn’t be on probation for the rest of his life. He told me that if I was a police officer in training, I should quit now. I told him I was a reporter, and he asked me to tell my readers a lot of things that are too inappropriate for print.

“You can see he went through a variety of emotions,” Stoll said as we left the jail. I asked him if that’s how arrestees typically responded, and he said it was a pretty normal reaction. “In some ways you understand, because for them, the situation is kind of intense,” he said.

Stoll added that in the eyes of the police, probation is not a right, it’s a privilege offenders have been given in lieu of a more serious punishment, so oftentimes officers have low tolerance for offenders.

2:17 a.m. — After watching a vehicle blow through the four-way stop at the intersection of Pierce Street and 48th Avenue, we followed the vehicle just long enough to watch them blow through another stop sign on South Campus Drive, by the Laker Village apartment complex. The driver was female with two male and one other female passengers.

Remember when officers issued an MIP citation hardly an hour earlier in the parking lot of Hillcrest, during the whole bringing-a-kid-to-prison ordeal?

The male passenger in the back of the car, who upon being pulled over promptly opened his door and vomited onto the street, was the very same student who was issued that prior MIP citation.

He was not issued an additional citation, but officers spoke with the both the drivers and passengers to assure that all involved parties were on their way to the final destination of the night.

2:45 a.m. — Officers Stoll, Westrate and Dornbos and Sgt. Zoulek responded to a call for assistance from the Grand Rapids Police Department in an incident involving a female GVSU student. Additional follow-up will be handled by the GRPD at a later date.

Around 3 a.m., we watched a handful of heavily intoxicated students step off the bus and head toward their apartments at Laker Village. Stoll commented that students were doing the right thing by using the bus system.

“The bus is definitely a contributing factor in the reduction of drunk driving,” he said.

As we did one final loop on road patrol as 4 a.m. began to close in on us, I thought about the one common thread in student response when dealing with the cops, and I thought more specifically about the probation violator we’d brought to the Ottawa County Jail earlier that night.

“That’s what police do,” he had told me through the thick plastic divider from the back of the police cruiser. “It’s their job, screwing people over.”

I asked Stoll what he thought about that — if he ever felt like that accusation held any real weight.

“I don’t feel bad about that because I’m not the one that makes that decision,” he said. “If people are choosing to engage in criminal behavior, I don’t know why the police officer should be blamed. To say that an MIP ruins someone’s life, that’s just not true … We certainly don’t have the intent to ruin people’s lives.”

And even so, MIP numbers weren’t out of control for this Homecoming weekend. In a combined total for the GVSU Allendale area including the efforts of both GVPD and the Ottawa County Sheriff’s office, only 23 total MIPs were issued between Friday and Saturday, with 3 probation violations and 4 drug arrests over the weekend.

Stoll attributes much of the decline to YAE.

“I think the university, as a whole, is slightly calmer and a lot of that does have to do with our target Youth Alcohol Enforcement,” he said.

[email protected]