Campus Cruise

Opinion Editor Jeff Winkler shadowed university police for a night. This is what he filed.

You could actually feel it in the air. The red current charged through campus Friday as nearly the entire UA got prepared for what some called the football team’s biggest game in 37 years. And it was going to be televised no less.

More than 72,000 people descended on a single spot and Fayetteville’s population was doubled and then deflated in less than 24 hours. People would be drinking of course, but there could also be chaos, hysteria and a rabid crowd, win or lose.

All 28 officers on the University of Arkansas Police Department would be working the game and more than 100 other officers from 25 other departments – from Elkins to state police – would be on hand for the anarchy Saturday, said Lt. Gary Crain.

But sitting in a patrol truck at 10 p.m., UAPD Officer Jerry Weiner was as peaceful and pleasant as someone at home dreaming of the next day’s victory.

“I get along good with everybody,” he said. “Why make it hard on yourself”

Weiner is working a double shift. The first is from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., the second is a graveyard shift that usually has three officers and a supervisor watching of the UA campus, Weiner said. He’ll nap on some mats in the exercise room of the police department before going to work at about 8 a.m. and finishing sometime around 7 p.m. It looks as if he will have plenty of time to make it hard on himself.

With his crew cut and thick black moustache, Weiner looks like a cuddly Mike Ditka. He’s always got a half grin on his face and his thick voice can have the soothing effect of a lullaby.

His disposition throughout the night is one of complete ease with his surroundings and he generally follows the tactical strategy of sitting back knowing everything will work itself out.

All night, the police scanner kept interrupting.

“We are going to need extra patrol for stadium drive tonight.[unaudible] unaware of anybody particularly assigned to the student [unaudible]…we just need to make extra patrols through there and advise them to please police themselves and stay out of the road. Obviously if we have do it it’ll increase…[cuts out then back louder]…increase the chances of someone being arrest for some unrelated offence.”

“10-4”.

“I don’t know, I like it all,” Weiner said of the reasons he joined the force. “I just like dealing with people.”

Weiner headed down to the stadium, where there had been debates all night between the officers about whether or not to close down the street. One dispatch over the radio suggested closing the whole thing down.

The officer on the other line quickly corrected himself. In his thick, ironic correction he said, “I mean close down the street.”

Weiner’s response to this entire debate was that they should just let things be. The traffic congestion on Stadium Drive would die down in less than an hour. By that time everyone would be going to bed, he said.

Weiner has been on the UAPD force for four months. Before that, he worked at the Department of Justice for two years supervising security at four of its satellite buildings in Washington, D.C.

The UAPD patrol nine “zones.” The zones, on paper, look like an absurdist jigsaw puzzle that covers all of the area owned by the UA. The UAPD only covers those places that are exclusively university property unless, of course, one of the officers is backing up another department.

Zone nine is the farthest away, at the agricultural park, where the equestrian building, the agricultural science fields and the food processing building all share a few acres of land. It is called “the Farm” by Weiner, and while the area has seen some theft in the last year – tools, a truck and even cows – the UAPD only drops by once a night to make sure everything looks normal.

Weiner drove by slowly and shined his spotlight at the building and its dark corners. He pointed out a place in the fence that surrounds a storage area where thieves once cut their way through. The bikes and chainsaws locked up in the evidence room are just a few of the items they found lying around after the break-in.

“Usually if we hear somebody checked the Farm, we don’t go,” he said.

In one theft incident, a door, which is almost possible to spot if one doesn’t know what to look for, was left open. It’s only one of the several clues that had led Weiner to think the thefts were inside jobs – people who work for the agriculture department.

The entire campus had been eerily quite all night. Despite all the hoopla and action throughout the day and the 100 or so campers outside Reynolds Stadium, there was hardly any noise or action the entire night. Weiner commented several times throughout the night how quiet it was, especially for a game night and especially before one of the biggest games of the year.

Even the scanner announcements had been dull except for the debate over the traffic on Stadium. Finally, about 1:30 a.m., Weiner got a call that there is a noise complaint at The Quad, more than likely involving alcohol.

Weiner met up with Officer Garrison and they made their way to building three, where resident assistant Neil Wright was waiting.

Wright said he had asked the residence hall party to quiet down several times with no lasting response. Coming down the hall, one could hear the faint noise of voices and music getting louder and louder. It was nothing out of the ordinary for a Friday night, and it seemed incredibly tame to warrant a police call.

After a few hard knocks on the door, and some audible scrambling on the other side, the partiers finally opened the door to Wright, who had the backing of two armed police officers. Wright is assertive about the whole situation.

During the whole incident, the partiers, about four or five of them, vehemently denied being source of all the noise. They got sarcastic with Wright a few times before Officer Garrison took the boys out one by one to give them a lecture.

Questioning began like a game of charades, with the partiers clearly acting dumb so they could come up with a good excuse.

“Is there any alcohol in this suite?” asked one of the officers.

“Hmm?” came the response.

“Is there alcohol in this suite?”

“No.”

Throughout this entire incident, Weiner had been really calm, and turned a few times with a half smile on his face and a mocking gleam in his eye, as if to say, “these kids are acting really dumb.” Again, the charades continued.

“Do you have any alcohol?”

“Huh?”

Do you have any alcohol?”

“Huh?”

“Do you have any alcohol?”

Weiner wasn’t pushy, and retained a calm, almost joyful disposition. It was obvious the kids had been making noise and it was obvious they had been drinking.

Had the kids accepted the noise complaint with grace and ease without trying to back pedal and flat out lie, they probably would have been able to keep the near empty liter of vodka they had hidden around the door.

In the end, they had to dump out the rest of the booze, Wright wrote them up for a few dorm violations and Officers Garrison and Weiner walked away talking about how idiotic the kids acted.

“We could smell it,” Weiner said. “We’re not stupid…when I’m a foot away from you and I’m getting intoxicated, don’t lie to me.”

Officer Garrison chimed in and said that he is thrown off when the people he confronts tell him the truth. Regardless, the two of them walked away, shaking their heads at the kids in the dorm for lying.

They seemed less interested in the underage drinking and noise violation than at the basic lack of human decency in that confrontation.

“I think you have to have a lot of common sense,” Jerry said, of how officers decide whether to arrest a person or let them go. “Sometimes I give somebody a break.”

“[I] worked vice and morals division in Hawaii and I treated [the hookers] like ladies, and then it paid off in the long run because we had a robbery where prostitutes had been involved and the other prostitutes I had arrested before…and they just got me and said hey so and so did it and you’ll find the gun on top of the roof and you’ll find the money on top of the roof.

Weiner made the arrest, “because I treated people the way I wanted to be treated.

“And people will remember you. They’ll remember you if you do something bad to them, something unjust.

“If you arrest someone and you treat them with respect, they’ll remember that. You treat them bad, they’ll remember that,” he said.

– Arkansas Traveler, Nov. 15, 2006

[Original piece available here.]

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