On the evening of Friday, March 11 most UAA students looked forward to first weekend of spring break 2K16. A day many would agree, should have been filled with alcohol related shenanigans and sticky situations among campus residents. Even I myself assumed the night would consist of raucous partying and joyous relief around the UAA campus, part of my incentive for signing up for a UAA Police Department ride along.
After I filled out the the paper work and was approved for the ride along, it was around 6 p.m. when I was told by a very stringently voiced man over a phone outside the UPD door to wait patiently for him to find an officer to assign me to. Within minutes, I was greeted by UPD Officer Perry Morgan, who used to serve as a patrol officer in Panama City Beach in northern Florida, also where MTV Spring Break used to shoot all of their shows. In relation to Morgan’s prior experience, UAA spring break is a bore around campus.
“The students seem to have learned to settle down by the second semester,” Morgan said.
While UAA doesn’t seem like a fitting environment for spring break activities based on the beach and pool party stereotypes created by MTV, I still assumed there was going to be some type of partying going on nearby.
Morgan touched on the fact that after the first couple weeks of the fall semester UAA’s campus begins to die down to mostly just traffic stops and miscellaneous arguments among student housing. The ride along quickly was redirected to more of a tour of the area UPD covers.
The main campus area, as well as housing and the University Lake areas, are not the only places UPD officers are expected to patrol during their shifts. All across the east and south sides of town and even downtown, buildings that belong not only to UAA, but the University of Alaska, are enforced by UPD. There are buildings such as the University Center, Aviation Buildings and University of Alaska leased property spread out around town.
During these commutes between locations across town, Officer Darrel Redick said they must stop if they are being flagged down or if they see any illegal activity taking place.
“All of us have a lot of prior police background,” Redick said.
Redick served as a member of the APD SWAT and was retired before his return to UPD. The common misconception that university cops are just like mall cops was swiftly corrected by the UPD members when asked, before being briefed about the plethora of criminal justice knowledge in UPD uniform.
Although UPD has a wealth of knowledge and experience, they do not engage with the criminal justice program at UAA at all. Morgan stated that at one point they did, by allowing students to work with them during lock up, but that program has long since been gone.
During the ride along, Morgan also made multiple traffic stops all that ended up being warnings. Although it would have been exciting to engage in a car chase or shootout, it was a more than eye opening experience to how different UAA’s campus is than other colleges in the nation, as well as the major differences within the city of Anchorage as of late.
“All neighborhoods are bad, or have the potential to be bad,” Morgan said.
As Anchorage crime heats up, APD and UPD work closely to keep the danger away from the campus area. Alaska is one of the worst states in the nation for sexual assault crimes and college campuses are a magnet for such activity. UPD stated that they usually only see 1 or 2 cases a year, typically this is a good sign except for the fact that almost 70 percent of sexual assault cases are not reported.
Morgan let me know about the availability of the Emergency Call stations that are provided around UAA and serve as a direct line to the UPD dispatch, as well as flash to alert nearby students or staff that something is not right.
Any student can fill out the paper work for a ride along at any time of the year, but the UPD officers would admit that during the summer months and school breaks not much is happening on campus.
University Police Department ride alongs can result in great conversations in a very open and comfortable environment, shared with a few very knowledgeable officers. It was a great experience with even greater people who have worked nights and weekends the majority of their lives so students like you and I can feel safe. When you come in contact with a UPD officer on any terms always remember, their first job is to provide a safe campus environment, so shake their hands and thank them for the service they provide, and maybe sign up for a UPD ride along and experience how they operate first hand.