My night shift with the UIPD, one reporter’s account of campus policing

Lieutenant+Joseph+McCullough+investigates+a+traffic+violation+on+Friday%2C+Sept.+23.

The Daily Illini File Photo

Lieutenant Joseph McCullough investigates a traffic violation on Friday, Sept. 23.

By Lilly Mashayek, Staff Writer

Editorial note: Staff Writer Lilly Mashayek rode along with University police officer A.J. Martin on Sept. 23 from 9:00 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. The following story is from her perspective.

“You can always talk your way into a ticket, but you can never talk your way out of a ticket,” said UIPD Officer A.J. Martin as we drove off after he gave someone a warning for speeding on Green Street.

During my evening with Martin, I quickly learned that it’s a tough job policing a top party school.

From stumbling students who didn’t know which direction was north, to fighting in the Pizza Hut parking lot, UIPD has their hands full – that’s without even stepping foot into the bars.

The UIPD doesn’t strive to give out as many tickets as possible, Martin said. If he stops someone who has a good attitude and shows they are willing to learn from their mistake, he’d rather give them a warning and educate them than give them a ticket.

Martin said UIPD are “not doing it to be jerks” when they give people tickets, but that sometimes it reminds them that there are consequences for their actions and puts them in the mindset of being careful.

Time Log

8:50 p.m. I arrived at the University of Illinois Public Safety Building and was given a ballistic vest. It forced me to sit up straight while riding around the cop car. It wasn’t as heavy as I thought it would be, but mine didn’t have the metal plate in it like the bulletproof vests do.  It was uncomfortable at first, but I got used to it.

9:04 p.m. I got in the police car with Officer A.J. Martin. I got to sit in the front seat and see all the equipment in the car, which included a laptop and a police camera. Martin said police work is just like that scene in “21 Jump Street” when Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill’s characters say they can’t wait to do cool cop stuff like seeing explosions, but then the movie cuts to a scene of them riding their police bikes through a park. We started driving and headed toward Green Street.

9:12 p.m. We stopped in a parking lot on Green Street to watch for people texting and driving. At night, Martin said, it’s easy to see who is because the phone screen lights up the car.

The night shift begins with mostly reactive work, such as looking for people texting while driving or bicyclists going the wrong way on one-way streets. However, toward the end of the shift, they respond to more calls for service, like breaking up fights or backing up another officer.

9:25 p.m. We left to go back up another officer who had pulled over a car for a traffic stop. Martin got out of the car and went to talk to the people in the car that was stopped.

9:29 p.m. He came back and said the car was pulled over for speeding, and the officer who pulled them over gave them a warning. We left the scene and continued driving back to where we were parked earlier in the parking lot. On our way back, Martin told me his goal isn’t to give students tickets. He said the last time he wrote a drinking ticket was two years ago on Unofficial.

“We don’t get money from drinking tickets or traffic tickets,” he said.

9:40 p.m. We left to provide backup for UIPD officers at a gas station who had found someone with a warrant for his arrest. When we arrived, the man was already in handcuffs and officers were talking to him. There were six cop cars total at the gas station, including five UIPD cars and one Urbana Police car. Martin said the man was arrested because he failed to appear in traffic court. He was taken to jail.

10:00 p.m. We arrived back at the parking lot. While there, I saw a bus drive by, and I asked Martin if he’s ever pulled over a bus before. He said he has and that bus drivers have a tough job because they have to deal with a lot of variables while still keeping on schedule.

10:08 p.m. Martin saw a car driving too fast, so we followed the car. He pulled the car over into a parking lot by 309 E. Green and went to go talk to the driver.

10:11 Officer Joe McCullough arrived as backup. Martin came back and said he was giving the driver a warning.

10:38 p.m. We got called to back up an officer who found a student passed out on the ground. When we got there, the student was on the ground. The officer got him to stand up, but it was clear he had had a lot to drink, even though he told the officer he only had seven beers that night. Martin called the student’s friends, who eventually came to pick him up. If his friends hadn’t shown up, Martin said he would have been taken to the hospital. Along with UIPD policy, he needed to be watched for the rest of the evening.

11:02 p.m. We left the scene, and the student’s friends took him home. Officer Martin said that it was important for students to know that if they are underage but their drunk friend needs medical assistance, they can call for help, and they will have immunity from getting drinking tickets for up to three people.

11:15 p.m. We got a call that a resident advisor at Florida Avenue Residence Hall had smelled marijuana coming from one of the dorm rooms. When we arrived, the resident advisor took us up to the room. Officer Martin and another officer talked to the student’s whose dorm it was, but they said they didn’t find any evidence of drugs. No tickets were given.

11:40 p.m. We got called to Taft-Van Doren because another resident advisor there had smelled marijuana. However, when we got there, it was hard to tell which room the smell was coming from. Officer Martin said it wasn’t a good idea to knock on all the doors to find the source because it was so late at night.

11:51 p.m. Someone reported a noise complaint against Merry Ann’s Diner in Urbana, so we went to go talk to the reporting party, or RP the person who made the complaint.

12:00 a.m. We arrived at the apartment of the RP, which was located right above the restaurant, but they failed to answer the door to talk to Martin. Instead, we went downstairs to Merry Ann’s, and asked them to turn down the volume of their music. They complied, but they said that the same person calls them to complain even when there is no music playing.

12:37 a.m. We were told that the person who had complained about the noise at Merry Ann’s, the RP, was ready to talk now, so we went back to his apartment. The RP said when we arrived the first time he was in the shower and hadn’t heard us knocking. Officer Martin told him that he asked Merry Ann’s to turn down the music, and he suggested for the RP to get a white noise machine to help drown out the sound from the restaurant. Martin asked the RP to let him know if the white noise machine solves his problem so that, if it does, he can recommend it to other people who may have similar problems.

1:11 a.m. As we parked in a lot on Green Street, Martin heard a fight so we went to go investigate. He was right, but as soon as we got there and he turned on the siren, the people fled the scene. One of the guys told Martin that it was his little brother who had gotten in the fight and that everything was under control now. However, Martin said the fights get broken up, but they don’t necessarily stay that way. The people involved tend to find each other again and pick up where they left off.

Turns out Martin was right.

1:16 a.m. While driving down Green Street, we heard another fight, so we went to where it was happening. As we pulled up, we realized it was the same man who was involved in the first fight that we had broken up earlier. Martin told me to wait in the car, and he went to go talk to the man.

1:20 a.m. Backup arrived and Martin continued to talk to people to see what happened.

1:22 a.m. We left the scene. Since Martin’s shift in the car ends at 1:30, he dropped me off at my apartment so that I wouldn’t have to walk home alone from the Public Safety Building.

“(I’ve been) very patient, I weigh a lot of what I’m doing — at the end of the day (the goal is) that we get to go home safe to our families.”