October 5, 2004

Red Sox Riot

There has been a lot of police activity in the office recently. And what’s with all that riot gear? And how many cruisers does it take to question a student who drives over the grass? All will be revealed. Read on.

The campus police here use our office conference room for their meetings. I’m not completely certain why, because it’s a big campus and we’re off campus. I have to conclude that it is because of the “secret” nature of their meetings.They meet to discuss what they see as a preeminent campus problem.

That problem is the excitement surrounding the Red Sox.

Last year there were problems when the Sox beat Oakland in the playoffs. Riots, actually, here on campus.

This year, the police plan to be ready. They have all sorts of protocols in place. They’re calling the local package stores to sniff out any large purchases of alcohol. They’re going to meet in a particular parking lot just before the game. They’ve been seen streaming out of the local state police barracks at about 3:20 PM, presumably headed this way.

The other day they were out behind our building (a couple of feet from my window) shooting off some sort of air rifle that sounded like a paint ball gun.I hear it may be a projectile gun that disperses a pepper-spray-like substance.And UMD is now the proud owner of a riot wagon, a la Grand Theft Auto 3 when you have 4 APBs.Except in addition to riot gear and guns, they also use trained dogs.

I can understand the interest in preventing a riot, but I have to say that when I think of our campus police, I don’t think or appropriate action. I think of overreaction.

Take this recent incident for example.

A student who works on the project was with a couple of friends on Saturday night, driving down the access road to our offices on Chase Road in Dartmouth. This is sort of a back way out of the campus. However, a few years ago they chained off the end of the access road so you could no longer drive through from the main campus to our parking lot. The actual reason for doing this has never been very clear. Various half-reasons have been offered, none of which seem justifiable.

As anyone knows, when you close off one route people ar eused to using, they usually take the path of least resistance, like water flowing around a stone. In this case, people here at our office often drive over the grass, up the hill and on to the road to campus. The police do it regularly. The people who deliver our mail from the campus do it regularly. And we do it, of course, because they all do.

Lately, the campus police had been harassing people for driving on the makeshift path. They even tried using police tape to block the path, but as you can see from my image (click for larger) they only blocked off one way through. There is still a path which crosses a handicapped parking spot.

So they were starting to register some displeasure that folks were driving over the grass. But I was informed that the man who runs the other organization we share our offices with (a man who also uses the grass path all the time) had spoken to the Chancellor about the activity. The word was that since the road was blocked off and since they had helped to pay for that road but could no longer use it, it would be OK to use the grass path.

The police even moved their cars the other day (grudgingly) after my boss requested to drive through the grass to get to campus one day last week. So things seemed to have been straightened out. WRONG. Little did I know, the fact that the police didn’t actually make the rules was rankling them.

To return to last Saturday around midnight, the student (whom we will call “Derek”) urged his friend to go ahead and drive over the grass because it was the quickest way through to the road. It’s a couple of miles back to campus and around on Old Westport Road if you go the long way.

Well, when he got to the road a campus cruiser sped out at him from the parking lot followed by a voice “Don’t you fucking move!”

The cruiser swung around and Derek’s friend pulled over. The officer accused him of driving over someone’s lawn, and Derek correctly pointed out that it wasn’t a residential lawn, it was the office where he worked. The office replied that he didn’t care if Derek was the “fucking chancellor.” These must be the language and public relations skills that they are studying hour after hour while they’re sitting in meetings here in the conference room.

Soon, an assortment of 6 cruisers converged on the scene including vehicles from the campus police, Dartmouth police, State Police and New Bedford Police.I understand the New Bedford police were the first to depart, to their credit.1 However, Derek and his friends were detained for 40 minutes while their information was reviewed and while they tried to determine whether the driver had been drinking (he hadn’t). There was alcohol in the car, and the person in the back had been drinking. But this passed muster, apparently.

After the 40 minutes, Derek’s friend was issued a citation to appear in New Bedford traffic court (because it was a moving violation) with a fine of $100. The reason? Driving in a restricted area or some such.

Does this sound like an appropriately measured reaction to a sober college student driving over an informal path that is in regular use by both police and employees of the university and offices?

This is what has me worried. If this is how they respond to some harmless students driving over some grass, how much overreaction are you going to see when there is actual mayhem in the equation? The mind boggles.

For your further reading, here is a previous post from last year on the riot: Sox Fans at UMD. It’s also interesting to just scroll back and forth at the other posts in October of last year. Interesting month.

1 I misunderstood. All 6 cruisers were from Dartmouth and Campus police.

Posted by James at October 5, 2004 3:50 PM
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Glad the NB police were so responsive to such a horribly serious infraction. Heaven knows New Bedford doesn't have that kind of crazy stuff happening.

Glad they didn't hang around long, anyway.

Posted by: Julie at October 6, 2004 9:02 AM

Yes, New Bedford police presence there is unimaginable.

Posted by: James at October 6, 2004 9:04 AM

Hey, don't forget, I threw up on a SMU cop. Apparently they're still nervous.

Posted by: Julie at October 6, 2004 9:06 AM

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