On Friday night I was finally approved to go on a ride-along with UMPD Officer Ben Hendricks. I was shocked, and frankly so was everyone that heard I was granted this access (even Officer Hendricks himself!). I pictured myself watching students being handcuffed for minor pot residue in their vaporizers and watching the cops care for underage girls passed out at a frat party. At the very least, I wanted one speeding ride with cop lights flashing and sirens blaring.
That didn’t happen.
It turns out the Friday before Thanksgiving break is practically the calmest night of the year. Most students have already gone home and those that haven’t are going to bed early to catch their 5 a.m. flight. While I should be happy that everyone on campus was well-behaved –and I am proud, UM, really– I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I was disappointed.
But I had fun hanging out in the UMPD station with Officer Hendricks and Crime Prevention guru John Gulla. They’re great, and definitely not the kind of cops to give you a speeding ticket for going 36 in a 30. I believe them when they say they want to protect and serve. And they answered all of my questions (and agreed to let me tag along on a more eventful night!).
In Florida, your body is not considered a container. That explains why the pile of underage drinking police reports never mention fines or penalties. You can be 18 years old with a BAL of 0.13 and not be breaking any Florida statutes, assuming you’re not physically holding a handle of Bacardi.
That’s not to say that there are no repercussions to underage drinking. The incident reports get sent to the Dean of Student’s Office where they are “handled.” (I’ll be meeting with Dean Arias in the next week.) For most first-time offenders to minor offenses like underage drinking, misdemeanor pot possession, and fake ids (it’s actually a felony!) there are programs in place like UM’s Pier21 and UMPD’s U-Lead program. Both focus on proactive education, not punishment. (I have a meeting with Pier21 later in the week too.)
Throughout the semester I’ve raised my eyebrows at the lack of fake id reports. I figured UM freshman wised up and bribed someone at the DMV to make super-legit IDs (probably linked with stricter SAT and GPA requirements). I was wrong, I’ve neglected to grab the right type of report: Fraud. I’m kicking myself now about it, but I’ll go request all of them tomorrow morning and, of course, update the blog once I get them.
I did get some dirt, though. But before I start throwing shade I’m going to follow-up with a few interviews, and then, hopefully, hold some people to account (or at the very least clear some things up). Students just need to remember there’s law and there’s a code of conduct. Both are completely separate. Students should probably re-read their housing agreements –especially that part about search and seizure.