David Dodd 1:48 a.m., May 18
Embedded In SDSU, U.S.A.
It’s early Friday, just past sunrise and SDSU is mostly deserted. It’s considered a slow day for classes, but there can be as many as 50,000 students, employees, faculty and visitors here on typical class days. Jaywalking isn’t tolerated. Sergeant Ron is a give respect, get respect back person. “We mostly protect those who don’t know they need the help”, describing the mission of the SDSU Police. He is a lifelong learner and teacher with the right experience to lead a squad of university police officers. Ron came on via the SDPD before a lot of the current technology was around. He can operate either way. He says the new hires are bright and they function well using the new equipment. He doesn’t mind being called a cop, but likes “the Man” better. I forgot about one from the 70’s - the “Fuzz”. There are almost three dozen officers, investigators, a K9 and dispatch staff. I get to see their detention cells and DUI test equipment. Ron tells me they handle all the crimes that occur elsewhere, plus traffic assists and medical emergencies. The campus is maze of properties. A 1-mile radius surrounding the campus defines their patrol jurisdiction. Ron says SDSU would be bigger except the area is already saturated with buildings and parking lots; a lot of it is vertical or going vertical. Many of the buildings are residential for young adults gaining independence and life experience. Fun. The patrol cars use dash cameras. With all the up and down curves, the ride almost feels like a Gran Prix road course. I didn’t know there were that many hills and blind corners on the campus. The cars can fit anywhere and they’re driven everywhere on the campus. Parking structures are capable of storing the 30,000 cars that lay assault on SDSU most days. A full-time parking staff works the place. Everyone pays for parking or pays the fines, fees and towing. Few violators leave satisfied and police are regularly called to settle differences. The parking areas give officers more places to patrol and discover vehicle break-ins, thefts, campers, lovers and drinkers. No modern hobo types were seen this morning, but the transit system delivers panhandlers directly to the center of campus, where they can take advantage of kind, naive students. Public transit buses and trolleys provide alternate commuting choices, but campus area traffic is still monumental. The Sarge had other tasks to attend to so, I was passed on to Officer Judy, who works well through the generation disconnect with 20-somethings. Judy seems to enjoy the work she came to law enforcement as a second career. Wearing a badge for five years now she says “cop” is an acceptable personal reference. Told me most of the new police hires are degreed. Employees receive class units as a benefit. I watched her work a few contacts with superwoman ease. First, a car stop for questionable registration. Next, she met with two young men in a fender bender. Judy proceeded to set them straight on what to do now and to avoid trouble, what to do next time. Then, she got a follow-up call came from a young student asking for more of Judy’s help with getting a boy to leave her alone. After asking him once, he came back with a book of poems and flowers. Judy thinks it’s a crush; the girl thinks it’s creepy. Judy will contact Romeo to discuss his unwanted intentions. Next, arrangements were made to serve an area resident with an eviction notice. Concern is raised when it’s reported the resident was hostile on previous police contact. It would be a good time for me to take off. Before leaving the station, I pick up self-help literature from the police station lobby. Titles include: Lock Your Bike, Get Along with Your Neighbors and DUI Blues. Their focus was on taking responsibility and staying alert to avoid becoming a crime victim, like Ron said earlier. It’s easy to see the need for an effective police force at SDSU.