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BG Falcon Media

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BG Falcon Media

The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Ride along with the police

You’ve seen them driving around campus. Now, the University police are letting you ride shotgun. The BG News rode along with two different University police officers on opposite shifts this month. Here’s what it’s like in the front seat of a campus police cruiser.

Traffic focus of day shift

We rode along with Officer Sean Beavers this past Monday. Beavers, 27, has worked on campus since 2002 and spends off-time as a firefighter, husband, and father to a 3-year-old daughter. We take off at 10 a.m., Beavers casually whistling and tapping on the dashboard to “Flagpole Sitta” playing on the radio.

It’s President’s Day when about 2,000 high school students come to check out the University. With such large crowds, six officers are on overtime, directing traffic.

At around 11:10 a.m. we park on the sidewalk on Ridge Street beside the Union. We wait.

“This is a hotspot here,” Beavers said. “I’ll sit here usually a lot of times, because of that stop sign. And people just brr” they’ll fly right through there.”

It is only minutes before Beavers spots a traffic violation. A gold Chevrolet Blazer passes a shuttle bus and rolls past the stop sign, just missing several pedestrians.

Beavers stops the car. When he returns to the cruiser, we watch two students approach the pulled-over car, clearly friends of the driver. Beavers points this out as one of his pet peeves. It makes him nervous when students approach a pulled-over car, because police never know if they are passing something – like a weapon – to the driver.

As we wait for dispatch to call back with the driver’s background, we see another of Beaver’s pet peeves. Two pedestrians walk between us and the car Beavers pulled over.

“In the city, no one does that,” Beavers said. “But that’s the quirkiness we have to deal with – it’s hard not to laugh at stuff like that.”

Drinking, drugs at night

When The BG News rode for the night shift on Thursday, Feb. 2, Officer Dan Hillis was behind the wheel. Hillis is a newer part of the force, only working at the University since May.

We roll out at 11:35 p.m., but not before Hillis grabs some extra gear. Hillis seems very cautious, very precise. He carries all necessary forms and copies of the law.

Hillis gets a call just before midnight-a resident adviser in Conklin smells marijuana.

Upstairs, there is a strong smell, even from the stairwell. Hillis knocks several times before the residents answer. He asks permission to enter the room, and the resident agrees.

When Hillis asks if they were smoking in the room, the resident and his three friends insist they were not. One of the friends offers that they were smoking somewhere else before they came to the dorms.

But Hillis isn’t convinced they weren’t smoking in the room.

He insists that they all empty their pockets. They agree. Hillis doesn’t find anything.

Hillis asks to search the room, and after the resident signs a consent form, he prepares to. The four line up outside the room. But before the search, Hillis gives the four one last chance to fess up.

“We have never smoked in here,” the resident said.

Hillis fires back. “It reeks in here, seriously,” he said.

When Hillis finishes the search, he talks to the guys in the hall.

“Now I didn’t find anything, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t smoke in here, because I know you did,” he said to the four.

They argue, but Hillis tells them they have violated the University’s drug abuse policy by smoking marijuana, regardless of whether they smoked in their room or not. One of the friends now claims that he didn’t smoke at all tonight. Hillis reminds him that he admitted he had smoked earlier.

All the students are referred to student discipline.

We leave the dorm by 12:30 a.m.

“I feel lightheaded,” Hillis said. “The smell was so strong in there.”

Officer safety first duty

For University police, the key to keeping campus safe is staying alert, and often expecting the worst. Hillis says he’s always on guard.

“If you’re just breezing through the day, you’re gonna get hurt,” Hillis said.

Beavers echoes Hillis’ philosophy.

“If you’re wearing your badge or uniform, if you’re not on your toes the entire time, that’s when things start happening. You get hurt. You get injured. You may not make it home,” Beavers said.

For Beavers, “being on your toes” means patting down anyone who enters his car. Beavers and the other University officers remember other little safety tricks, too. Like keeping their dominant hand free, just in case they have to grab for a weapon. Like angling their tires slightly to the left on a traffic stop, so they won’t be crushed in the driver’s seat if hit from behind.

And its tricks like these that keep Beavers feeling safer on the job.

“That’s my ultimate goal when I come to work: go back home,” Beavers said.

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