Breaking myths: Student Patrol assists police without busting you

Erica Magda

Erica Magda

By Laura Ude

Myth No. 101 on campus: the Student Patrol is out to bust you.

This common misconception often stems from student distrust of law enforcement. Since the early 1980s, however, the Student Patrol has been around to act as an extra set of eyes and ears for the University Police Department, according to Officer Nathaniel Park, who has coordinated the program since 2007.

The Student Patrol is composed of 30 students, Park said. Each night they patrol, students walk in pairs and use police radios to call an officer if something is going on.

“Students also assist us during sporting and concert events and provide safe walks home to students who need them at night,” Park said.

Jarred Logan, junior in Aviation, is in his fifth semester in the program and his third as a team leader. One of his favorite perks is getting to work some of these sporting events.

“It’s great to get to watch a basketball game while you get paid,” Logan said.

On the weekends, the Student Patrol calls in any loud noise complaints, which frees up the officers to respond to other calls. Although the students can call officers about complaints, they cannot give out tickets, which is a common misconception, Park said.

Other tasks that the Student Patrol completes on a weekly basis include checking emergency phones to ensure that they work, and going out on “light-longs,” Logan said. Light-longs involve students looking for any lights that are out so that campus stays illuminated at night.

The Student Patrol is designed to be open to every student who wants to be involved, not just students who are interested in becoming members of the police force.

“There is this perception that people who are on the patrol want to become a cop, but most don’t want to,” Park said.

Garrett Leffelman, senior in Aviation, and Kristen Lovejoy, senior in LAS, are two members who do not want to pursue police work. Leffelman is thinking about joining the army, whereas Lovejoy is still unsure of what the future holds for her.

“I needed a job and this worked well with my schedule,” said Leffelman, who is with the program for his sixth semester and third as team leader. Although he is not particularly interested in police work, Leffelman said that working with the police is interesting.

“There is this stigma about police officers, so it is nice to see how the police force actually runs,” Leffelman said.

Also like Leffelman, Lovejoy needed a job and liked the hours, although a few people in her family have done police work. She also admits that it is nice to have an inside scoop on what is happening on campus.

“I like the security of knowing if something major happens, I’ll know about it,” Lovejoy said.

When students are out patrolling, the campus is broken in to five different zones. The Champaign zone is preferred because the patrol is more likely to see something out of the ordinary and more likely to have a chance to call something in.

The patrol is most likely to have to walk someone home from this area because it gets busy when bars close, Logan said.

“People we walk home are usually grateful, once they get past the false impression that we’re out to bust them,” Logan said. “When we do have to bust people, that’s when there’s more of a problem, but that’s few and far between.”

A typical night is generally calm, consisting of checking buildings and just being aware of what’s going on.

If the night is busier, sometimes the patrol has to report intoxicated people and have someone check on them, Leffelman said.

Most often, the Student Patrol does not encounter any problems. The hardest part of working for the patrol is usually the weather, but the hours can also become taxing, Leffelman said.

“I have early classes and ROTC at 5:30 a.m., so the hours are sometimes hard,” Leffelman said.

From the officers’ perspective, the only problem the department has had with the Student Patrol happened several years ago.

“The Student Patrol used to have more access to buildings and decided to start stealing some stuff, but that … was a long time ago and has been the only problem ever,” Park said.

Since the incident, Park said the Student Patrol has taken steps to rebuild the integrity of the program.

Because of the long hours and high level of responsibility, the students who work for the program are paid well, according to Park.

But no matter what the night calls for, the Student Patrol is a unique job.

“The best thing is that you get to see the nightlife from an entirely different perspective,” Logan said. “You actually remember most of it and see a variety of things.”

*The Student Patrol works from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday-Thursday, and until 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday. If you are interested in joining the program, apply online or at the Department of Public Safety building on Springfield and Goodwin avenues.