Thursday night behind the wheel of a cruiser

Kelly Byer

KSU police keep the campus safe on party nights

Kelly Given, Kent State police officer, cruises down Theatre Drive on campus yesterday. Given spends her riding shifts monitoring traffic and keeping a lookout for suspicious activity. Sam Twarek | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Editor’s note: This story stems from a ridealong a reporter did with the Kent State Police Thursday, Oct. 23.

Officer Kelly Given steers her cruiser through the university streets, heading toward Tri-Towers for a premise check. It is 10 p.m. on a Thursday with one hour remaining in her afternoon shift.

So far, Given says the night has been fairly “quiet,” but she jokingly says she’s jinxed it by saying that. Sure enough, calls start to come in and the night’s pace picks up.

10:15 p.m.

Given says Thursday, Friday and Saturday are the busiest nights for campus police, as she parks her car and then reports her status in the car’s touch-screen computer.

Standing on an island of grass in the Tri-Towers S-37 parking lot, Given observes the area, keeping an eye out for anything suspicious.

Although she isn’t out to bust students, she says she would rather it be busy because the time goes faster. But Given isn’t bored for long.

“Typically, there’s always something to do,” Given says.

The chilly wait in the parking lot confirms that as she abruptly says, “We might have something right here.”

Given heads off across the parking lot, taking out her flashlight as she walks.

She comes upon two students unloading a plastic bag from their trunk, asking them what is in it. The student says it’s nothing illegal but doesn’t want Given to check it.

After pressing them a bit more about the contents, Given lets them leave because there is nothing to justify a search.

“I’m sure there was something,” Given says after the students walk away, adding that the student’s eyes were beet red.

“One second sooner.” she says, and she might have seen something to warrant a search. But Given says she wouldn’t violate a person’s rights just to make an arrest.

Her main concern is making sure students are safe.

“We’re just doing our job, making sure you’re OK,” Given says.

10:34 p.m.

Given returns to her car, and the next call is for a student having epileptic seizures at Manchester Hall.

It’s not something she thinks would require “running hot,” with car lights and sirens on. That decision is made depending on the situation, Given says.

But before she makes it to Manchester, another incident is reported. Given changes plans, heading to a report of students trespassing on the roof of the Liquid Crystal Institute. The ambulance heading to Manchester Hall passes Given as she changes direction.

10:43 p.m.

Given meets Officer Jeffery Futo at Risman Plaza, where he is already talking with the students. He advises the two, who say they didn’t realize they were trespassing, to be careful about what they do.

Futo talks to the students conversationally, even jokingly, at times.

Given says officers’ approach to incidents like this is to downplay it and treat students with respect, as officers would want to be treated.

“I’d rather talk my way out of a fight rather than into a fight,” Given said.

10:50 p.m.

Both officers and students depart, and Given walks back to her car. In five minutes, she pulls into the Stockdale parking lot and goes inside.

She hangs up her jacket and talks good-naturedly with other officers whose workday is ending. Those on the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. night shift are just making their way into the station, taking their jackets off the hooks.

11 p.m.

Officer Josh Simms is just beginning his night with roll call, receiving a briefing of what has happened during other shifts. After about a half hour, he does a routine check of his cruiser.

Setting his cup of coffee on the car’s roof, Simms turns on the car lights, checks the radar with tuning forks and inspects the AR-15 (semi-automatic rifle) housed in the cruiser.

Simms drives out of the station’s parking lot and makes a trip around campus, turning the radio to a rock station.

“Most of my activity’s going to center around alcohol,” Simms says of Thursdays.

11:56 p.m.

Simms waves as he passes another officer, saying that the night usually starts out slow, with more activity happening when people come back from the bars. 12:12 a.m.

With little happening on campus, Simms decides to see what’s going on downtown. He drives past the Robin Hood, The Bar’N and Ray’s Place, where people stand in lines outside.

Even though the city is not in Simms’ jurisdiction, he usually does a check of the city once a night and the Kent City Police officers do the same for campus.

12:36 a.m.

Returning to campus, Simms pulls into the WKSU parking lot to run radar. As cars pass, he estimates their speed before clocking it.

Four minutes later, he leaves the lot, heading to a call for vandalism at a university water tower. In the spotlight of another police car, Simms can see the base of the tower has been spray painted. But without a suspect description, he says there is little police can do.

12:45 a.m. to 2:45 a.m.

The rest of the night continues in a similar fashion, and Simms spends his time between radar, traffic stops and patrols of the campus.

Simms says when he started as a Kent State police officer as a 23-year-old, it was awkward policing students his age, but then it became the norm.

He says being a police officer is like any other job with its ups, downs and inside jokes.

“For the most part, people respect it, what you’re doing,” Simms says.

Contact safety reporter

Kelly Byer at [email protected].