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Ridin’ with the Popo

You may have spent your Friday night drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana while on the lookout for those pesky police. They’re always trying to spoil your fun, right?

To get a policeman’s perspective, I tagged along with a university cop while he made his Friday rounds. For security’s sake, I can’t mention names or places, but here’s what happened on my journey to the other side.

“Officer X” gave me a grand tour of University Police headquarters in the Eisenhower Parking Deck. They’ve got a one-way mirror in the interrogation room, a digital fingerprint scanner, and other fancy stuff.

As students, you may expect police officers to be gruff, handcuff-happy jerks, but Officer X was a wonderful guy. The police don’t go out of their way to bust people; they merely strive to keep the students safe, even if that means slapping citations onto a few unlucky law-breakers.

We examined graffiti in a residence hall, checked out a potential computer-lab break-in, and admonished some youths riding skateboards in the street. We searched for stop-sign drifters and renegade padiddles (Did you know that a one-headlighted car warrants a citation? Watch out, Jakob Dylan).

We discussed This American Life and directed a van of visiting female athletes to their motel. I even learned about policeman pastimes and rent-a-rocks. Everything was fascinating, and I really connected with “the other side.”

However, my enthusiasm evaporated when the time arrived to bust my fellow students. To make a long story short, some freshman blew chunks, and Officer X was eventually summoned. The scene broke my heart: covered smoke detector, quickly-hidden booze, faint smell of marijuana, crying, lying, vomit, and one completely ruined chill session.

The students who received charges didn’t truly deserve them; no immoral behavior transpired. Why were they busted? I consider it a mixture of “wrong place, wrong time” and a set of substance laws in need of reform.

Eventually Officer X and I arrived back at the station. I thanked him for the ride, and we parted ways. Perhaps it’s merely my student bias showing, but the busting made me uneasy. In my mind, I looked from the nervous students to the confident officer, and I didn’t know who to endorse.

We need laws, and we need police officers. Sometimes I wish they’d both just leave us students alone, but that’s probably a sentiment that I’ll outgrow someday.

In the meantime, contact the University Police if you’d fancy a policing adventure of your own. Ask about the Ride-Along program; you may gain new perspectives regarding a Friday night at Penn State.

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