University police don’t receive the respect they deserve

Student disapproval is misplaced, harms UND’s reputation.

University police deal with poor student perception. Photo by Chester Beltowski/The Dakota Student.

There have been a lot of negative opinions floating around about the University Police Department lately, but I think we’re not giving its staff members a fair view. They may have had some problems in the past, but recently they have been making an active effort to do better.

The main problem stems from the students’ attitudes of fear toward police. However, whereas UPD may have contributed to this atmosphere in the past, now most of it is simply being perpetuated by the students themselves.

It’s no secret that many UND students don’t take the illegal nature of underage drinking seriously. I am not saying this to pass judgement — I don’t completely agree with the current drinking age myself — but I have come to learn through my college experience that just because I don’t agree with the law as it currently stands, doesn’t mean that I am exempt from the consequences if I choose to ignore it.

It seems as though many students get the feeling that UPD is simply out to get them. While those who drink underage are breaking the law and are therefore subject to the consequences, UPD isn’t overly aggressive or mean-spirited toward students — at least not in my experience with them.

A little over a year ago, I made a series of foolish decisions with alcohol that ended with me going to the hospital.

At first, my friends were worried about calling an ambulance since they weren’t very familiar with medical amnesty laws, which in many cases give legal protection to people who have been drinking but who call police in a medical emergency. Fortunately, my friends were able to overcome their fear and eventually call the police.

Although I don’t personally remember the experience with the police officer, UPD did uphold the medical amnesty laws, and it took steps to ensure my safety.

For this reason, I am grateful and satisfied with the said laws, at least in North Dakota. Instead of arresting me, the police officers ensured I received the proper medical attention I needed. This tells me that UPD’s primary concern is the safety of the students and not just handing out minors.

UPD doesn’t go out of its way to crush people under the heavy hand of the law, but if people are being exceptionally dumb or dangerous, then it is UPD officers’ duty as a police force to step in. They’re not just out to get you. They are doing their best to protect this campus.

In a recent letter to the editor, Student Body President Nick Creamer and Interfraternity Council President John Mitzel explained that, “Since (UPD Chief Eric) Plummer’s start at UND last year, there has been a complete 180 in the way UPD works with students.”

The students wrote about how Plummer has taken many steps to work directly with the students themselves, to both ensure their safety and hear any concerns about any of his officers. They also mentioned that the few times they did have complaints, Chief Plummer made sure to address them with his officers.

The most important thing to remember about UPD is that they are human beings just like you and I. Occasionally, they make mistakes — no one’s perfect. I have certainly made my share of mistakes throughout the years, but I think I have learned from them, and I think UPD has learned from some of its mistakes as well.

UPD has not only been taking steps to establish better relationships with students, but it has been doing an amazing job at it.

Think about it from UPD’s perspective. How would you feel if most of the people you met automatically decided you were terrible at your job before they even met you, because of a singular situation taken out of context, or even a single, genuine mistake?

The mission of UPD is to protect and serve this campus, and even though some people might not think so, I think they do a great job of it. Instead of our fear or prejudice, these people deserve our respect and admiration.

Michael Rauser is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected].