Traffic stops. A lost student. A frantic individual on an unknown substance. An intoxicated man passed out on the side of the street. A visit to the hospital. An apartment fire. Backup from paramedics and firefighters. Sirens, lights, radios, codes, safety, enforcement. An experience. A crazy night.
When I arrived at the Colorado State University Police Department for a ride-along with an officer, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. But there I was, ready to ride along with a cop, ready to experience law enforcement’s side of the story, ready to report on whatever I was to discover and learn.
I was paired with Cpl. Chuck Richards, who has served CSUPD for four years. Richards graduated from CSU in 1988 with a political science degree, and continued on to graduate school at Denver University to pursue a degree in technology management.
“I’ve always had an affinity for CSU,” Richards said. “I’ve been a season ticket holder for 25 years now.”
Richards said his favorite part of working with CSUPD is the interaction he has with people in the community.
“Kids keep me energized, and there are a lot of good people on campus,” Richards said. “Every year I see 5,000 to 7,000 new faces that bring new experiences.”
So there we were – standing in the CSUPD parking lot outside Richards’ department Ford Interceptor, equipped with police lights, technology used for communication and running information, and what Richards calls his “war bag.”
“I’ve got everything from a fire extinguisher, to traffic vests, to first aid supplies and a camera,” Richard said of his war bag.
As we entered his vehicle, Richards explained that police have specific driving instructions that they must learn, much like the type of firearms training that everyone in the force must pass. Richards stressed the importance of thorough training and its role in the everyday routine of an officer and the community.
“Every day we have to be prepared for every type of call,” Richards said. “We have to be on our toes to handle a myriad of things, and we have to be adaptable to respond to all different situations.”
And just like that, we were off. After a brief traffic stop in which Cpl. Richards issued a verbal warning, we received an alert from dispatch regarding a disruptive male patron watching pornography in the Morgan Library. After canvasing all floors of the library and declaring them clear of the described patron, Richards and I returned to his car and logged to dispatch that we were clear for the next call. As we were driving around, Richards shared some valuable insight on the life of a CSUPD officer.
“Approximately 90 percent of the interactions we have are with people ages 18-25, and others are just community members,” Richards said. “I like to help people, and our whole department has a desire to help people, otherwise they wouldn’t be here.”
After stopping by the CSU animal hospital on a routine visit, we received a report of a young woman who was upset, injured and under the influence of an unknown substance. We arrived at the scene, and Richards calmly got out of the vehicle and approached the woman. With the combined effort of other officers, paramedics and firefighters at the scene, the situation was diffused and the woman received appropriate medical attention and assistance.
“You have to be a team in this field,” Richards said. “Our team and community must work together to keep everyone safe.”
After a couple additional traffic stops, we received the last call of my ride along experience with Richards. A non-responsive intoxicated man discovered by campus service officers was on West Laurel Street. We then took him to Poudre Valley Hospital to assure the man was fine and received the medical care he needed.
Prior to the ride-along, Richards led me on an informative tour of the precinct explaining the different departments and positions of CSUPD. Positions begin at officer, then corporal, sergeant, lieutenant and captain is the highest rank in the field. Also within the department is dispatch, which is responsible for communication with police in the field.
“Our mission at CSU is education,” Richards said. “We’re community based and focused on safety.”
Members of CSUPD are state police, and receive the same training as Larimer County or Fort Collins police. Upon completion of training, they are sworn in by the city of Fort Collins, and hold jurisdiction from I-25, to Hughes, to CSU’s campus, to Pingree Park and areas throughout Fort Collins.
“We focus on the safety of the community, specifically on the campus, but also in surrounding areas,” Richards said.
Richards discussed his enthusiasm for the campus officer liaison program. The program pairs officers with different residence halls on campus. Officers meet and walk with resident assistants and interact with community members.
“The program is important because it establishes a relationship between students and officers,” Richards said. “We’re normal, everyday people just like everyone else.”
The ride along, and my day in the life of a CSUPD officer, concluded as Richards dropped me off back at campus.
“We all put our pants on the same way as everybody else, and we’re all pretty friendly people,” Richards said. “We took an oath knowing there is inherent danger every day while being a cop, but we still took that oath.”
Collegian Reporter Jessie Trudell can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @JessieTrudell.