The University Police Department sat down to chat with students Wednesday night during Late Night Pizza at Thomas Dining Hall.
“Late Night Shift” was the second event in a bid to boost relations with students and staff, following a “Coffee with the Cops” meet-and-greet Aug. 31.
“We want to break down the barrier between the police and the citizens,” newly appointed UPD Chief Kent Martin said over a buffalo and pepper pizza.
The life of a cop is rarely as exciting as the media portrays it, Martin explained to students.
While the characters of buddy-cop films and police dramas such as “Chicago P.D.” apprehend mass murderers as explosions ring out behind them, Martin and his officers spend more time handling thefts.
“The movies and TV shows and all that make us out to be, ‘Well, I went to work today. I shot six people and crashed a couple of cars and had some chases,’” Martin said. “They don’t show the hundreds of thousands of positive things that the cops do every single day.”
Martin said a huge percentage of the thefts that happen at Eastern are preventable.
Martin cited these thefts primarily as cases of valuables being left out, unlocked or unguarded, including phones left in dining hall tables and laptops in open dorm rooms.
Sgt. Ryan Risinger said the blue emergency lights go off a lot, but added that the calls are more often pranks than actual emergencies — the equivalent of “ding-dong ditching.”
On two separate occasions, students pointed out high-profile instances of police brutality and shootings, asking the officers for their thoughts on the subject.
“The vast, overwhelming majority of us are not like that,” Martin said. “Obviously, I don’t know what it’s like to be black. I’m not going to sit here and insult your intelligence by trying to make you think that I do. I can say I know what it’s like to be treated differently than other people.”
Martin said he lost friends when he became a police officer, and has walked into restaurants wondering if kitchen staff might spit in his food for arresting them in past encounters.
“There are complete, total strangers, people I’ve never met before in my life, that would kill me tonight,” Martin said. “They don’t know anything about me other than I put a badge on.”
Despite this, becoming an officer is not as difficult as one might be led to believe, Risinger said, citing a mix of psychological and fitness tests as the primary hurdles to receiving the badge.
Officer Bobby Agney said the job comes with many good benefits, ample opportunities to interact with students and chances at continuing education right here on campus.
Mallory Kutnick can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]