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The Scarlet & Black

The S&B gets an inside look at Grinnell Police Dept.

On Monday, Michael Kleine ’11 and Christian Caminiti ’11 participated in a ride-along with the Grinnell Police Department. Kleine rode with Officer Peek, who was once based in Michigan, and discussed the lifestyle of a Grinnell Police Officer. Caminiti rode with Officer Johnson and focused on the relationship between the college and the Grinnell Police Department.

Officer Steve Peek

How often do you do ride-alongs?
Right now, we are working with the Citizen’s Academy. People from the community will ride along with us and teach certain classes about different aspects of police work. It’s nice to interact with someone you can actually learn something about.

Have you ever been in a situation that required you to use deadly force?
Not at Grinnell. We’re issued OC (pepper spray), a baton, handgun, handcuffs and tasers. There’s a shotgun behind us and some squad cars have M16-type weapons, but I have been in Grinnell for two years now and have never had to use the shotgun.

How do you feel that your role as an officer has changed now that you operate here in Grinnell, as opposed to Flint, Michigan?
Oh. Well in Iowa, everything is a misdemeanor. There’s no jail time involved. In Michigan, almost all traffic violations are civil infractions. That’s not a criminal infraction. It makes things kind of difficult. I guess that’s why the constitution was written the way it is written. It’s just strange how in different parts of the country, [there are] different values, how things are developed and I guess that’s just all a part of it, the difference between Grinnell and Flint. Everything is different. It’s not what I am used to. The county I came from was not like any other county in Michigan. Very seldom does any criminal offense see the light of the courtroom, most are plea-bargained away because they are so loaded.

Have you ever arrested a close friend or family member?
Obviously, I have a certain amount of discretion on how I handle things, but if someone has done something that is so outrageous[…]then it doesn’t really matter to me who you are. Now for the college kids, I seriously have not had too many bad dealings with any of them. I will tell them my perspective, tell them how things are going be and normally, that’s enough. Last year at the beginning of the school year, we got called to a party and this kid just wanted to keep running his mouth. If you stop talking and cooperate, chances are you are going to walk home.

Are you allowed to listen to the radio while you are on your shift?
I can listen to music. I usually listen to the radio quite a bit but I’ve got this turned off right now so we can talk. Some police cars actually don’t have radios. When I first started working in Michigan, the first full-time department I was at, we didn’t have AM/FM radios in our car for two years. The chief that was there, his prerogative was you were there to work and you were not there to listen to the radio and it actually cost more to have police cars without radios. Oh and in case you were wondering, fuzz busters don’t work.

Officer Dan Johnson

How do you see relations between the police and the college?
I think relations could probably be a little better at times. I don’t really know how to explain it. There’s a lot of things that we’ve dealt with and we’re dealing a lot more with kids running on us if we have to stop and try to talk to them about something. I’ve seen a lot more of that this year, not that we don’t ever have it every year. I just wish that, as far as the students go, to work with us a little better.

What would you want to say to the students? Anything you’d want them to know that you think students might misconceive?
One, just if we need to talk to them about something, not to automatically think they’re in trouble. Especially we’ve had a lot of trouble with the smoking. It’s only a 50 dollar civil penalty. But then we’ve had students who have ran on us. Well if we end up catching them they’re going to jail for interfering with official acts charge. But you know if they’re doing something wrong just take the consequences. As long as they’re decent, things will go a lot easier and better for them. Because we do put that stuff in our reports—if they cooperate, things like that. But if they run from us or don’t cooperate, that just makes things worse. And that’s not just students—that’s anyone. Another thing is not to lie when [the students] talk to us. Because eventually we’re going to find out.

Has their been an increased police presence on campus this year?
Not that I’m aware of. Our bicycle patrol guys will go up there and patrol campus, which I know upsets students because they think we’re up there just to harass them. That’s not it at all. We have a lot of bicycle thefts from up there, so we’re looking mainly for people who don’t belong up there. I’ve arrested kids that have been drinking on campus or drinking at college parties. So that’s the kind of thing that we’re looking for. We’re looking for people who don’t belong there.

And people that are drinking?

And just to be clear, what’s the rule about drinking? Never outside and inside if you’re 21?
You can drink inside if you’re 21. Obviously, if you’re under 21 you’re not to be drinking at all. Those common areas where you have your parties in the lounges–that’s a common place–a common area that’s open to the public per se. They allow the drinking and stuff like that in there. No one can be drinking outside.

What about during Selah when they sold beer outside on Mac Field?
There are times when they are allowed to. I believe they’d got to have a permit through the city and they’d got to have permission from the city and the police department to do that kind of stuff. A lot like Block Party.

I’m not sure anyone really understands what the police are allowed to do and not to do on campus. Can you talk about that?
I guess one of the biggest things I’ve ran into on campus is that the students don’t think we have a right to be there. We’re allowed on campus and we can make arrests for anything on campus.

Without being called onto campus?
Right. I’ve ran into things where I’ve been issuing a citation for stuff while out on bike patrol and had students actually call security saying we’re writing tickets and shouldn’t be up there. And especially the younger kids each year—when we do deal with them for whatever reason—that’s one of the things that’s always brought up, the “how can you arrest me for this because you’re not even allowed on campus?” For whatever reason it spreads from year to year. I don’t know why.

They tell us that if something is going on in the dorm, what’s supposed to happen is that the RLC is supposed to deal with it first. Then security. Then security calls the police. That’s what they tell us, so if the police were to come into a dorm without being called by someone, students might think that wouldn’t be allowed. Is this true?
No. We’re not going to just have security let us into a dorm just for the hell of it.

Ok, but can you get into the dorms anyway? Do you have the keys to get in?
No. We don’t carry them. There may be a key we have at the police department for emergencies or something but I’m not 100 percent sure[…] Officers don’t have keys on them. If need be, we’ll have a student or security or someone let us in. But if we get a complaint, whether it be about a party being too loud or something like that, we’re going to call security, and then security will let us in and we’ll go up there and shut the party down.

So there was a debate about the cross-country team going streaking across campus. If you were driving around and saw it, would it be a problem?
As long as they’re not intoxicated or anything like that, I would just tell them look go back inside and get your clothes on. Because I’d have to do that at least. As long as they’re not out where the public can see them, and we don’t get complaints on it, chances of us seeing it are probably going to be pretty slim. But at the very minimum they’re going to be told to go get clothes on, things like that. Because if they were to be charged with indecent exposure that could land them on the sex offender registry.

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  • C

    Clay Parks class of 1980May 2, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    Officer #2 sounds like a lot of cops with typical oppressive “I’m right and you’re wrong” attitudes. But he thinly veils them with “Hey, I’m a nice guy just doing a job” type comments. His evasiveness about keys to the dorms is disconcerting; so is his evasiveness with other questions and comments.I
    I realize times have changed, but is it necessary for law officers to carry shotguns and M-16s on Grinnell’s campus. I’ve yet to hear of any situation on campus that would require the use of powerful weapons such as these, but their very prescence is a recipe for trouble. People need to be reminded of the events at Kent State.
    Don’t the taxpayers of Grinnell, the county, Iowa, and the United States have better uses for tax revenues than harassing and arresting students for drinking beer. And I’m certain the many unemployed in this country would rather see the police fighting crime than enjoying a bike ride through a pleasant campus purportedly on the lookout for the many heinous criminals terrorizing the campus.
    In regards to running from the police, who wouldn’t? They’re not there to help students, but to harass and arrest them. Or perhaps they’re grilling someone or trying to turn them into a fink. Considering that law officers are supposed to be in top physical condition, I would assume catching a running student would be a minor problem. Or is The Bakery getting too much business from the law enforcement community?
    Time and again, studies have shown that approximately 50% of cops have psychological issues regarding megalomania and an obsessive need for power. Do students really want these types of people stalking them?