I’m pretty sure I would make a lousy cop. Fortunately, the strict hiring policies embraced by most law enforcement agencies will prevent this theory from ever being tested.
I decided this when I recently went on what’s called a “ride-along.” This is where you — follow me closely here — “ride along” with the police so you can learn to appreciate first-hand where all the good donut shops are.
Ha! I kid, as is my custom. No, you ride with the cops so you can learn to appreciate all the hard work they do, much of which goes unnoticed by the general public. Most people only notice the police when they receive traffic tickets, or when they see amateur footage on TV of the police beating someone. This unfortunately leads to negative stereotypes of police officers, some of which, unlike most stereotypes, have no basis in fact.
I chose to ride with the University Police, who are NOT just security guards, as some people think. The University Police are fully trained, full-fledged cops who have been through police academy (not the movie) and who have complete cop authority. They carry guns, pepper spray, handcuffs, batons, grenades, tear gas and anthrax (lame joke coming), and that’s just to get out of the Marriott Center following a Devotional! (Lame joke finished.) These are cops we’re talking about here.
So I signed up for the ride — which by the way ANYONE can do, in B-66 ASB — and was assigned to ride with Officer Matt Andrus. On the night of the ride-along, Matt told me the rules: I have to stay in the car when he pulls people over, I have to get out if he gets involved in a high-speed chase (it was implied that he would at least slow down first), and when he pulls someone over, I get to decide if they get a ticket or not.
“I’ve always wanted to choose who lives and who dies,” I said truthfully.
The first thing we did was park in the Smith Fieldhouse parking lot. Parking is inappropriate on a date, but in police work, it’s OK. Apparently, there has been a great deal of speeding in this particular parking lot. The limit is 15, but people have been flying out of there at incredible speeds, sometimes as high as 25 or even 30, if you can imagine. I told Matt I was pretty sure I had, at one time or another, broken the sound barrier in that parking lot. He laughed and gave me a ticket.
Within five minutes of parking there, we clocked a guy going 28 miles per hour. We followed him out but didn’t pull him over yet because we wanted to give him a chance to do more crimes. Our patience paid off: As he passed the Museum of Art, he killed a guy.
No, actually, he sped some more, this time doing 45 in a 30 zone. Now we pulled him over and I dutifully waited in the car while Officer Matt went to talk to him. I felt bad for this guy. We caught him speeding twice, plus he didn’t have his driver’s license with him. This could be an expensive ticket.
I didn’t want to give him a ticket. He was being cooperative, and he didn’t deny anything. I wanted Matt to tell him, “Don’t worry, buddy. Just drive more slowly,” and then maybe give him a hug. I felt REALLY bad for him. But I didn’t want Matt to realize what a lousy cop I would be, so I had him give the guy a ticket for not having his license with him. I knew he could go to the traffic office and talk it down to $10.
So that’s one reason I would be a terrible cop. I would feel too guilty giving anyone a ticket, especially a student, since I know firsthand that students are dirt poor, what with tuition and housing and all. Of course there are some students whose parents pay for all that. Those people, I would have no problem giving tickets to, or shooting.
Another reason I would be a terrible cop: shooting. I’d be shooting things all the time. Just indiscriminately, whenever I got a little nervous, I’d fire off a few rounds. This would probably include while directing traffic or riding in parade floats.
Anyway, at 10:30, Matt’s shift was over and I rode with Officer Jed Henrie for the rest of the evening. Jed is a big friendly bear of a man, and he talked to me a lot about “Titanic,” which he had recently seen twice. He was unaware of my negative feelings toward the film, which by the way have not changed despite the many thoughtful and highly literate death threats several of you have e-mailed me recently.
Overall, the evening was quiet. My impression of BYU police? Good people. Nice guys. Dedicated police officers who love their work. These people are devoted to making BYU a safe place for everyone, and they did not, in my presence, eat a single donut all night.
I’m not even a cop, and I can barely go 10 minutes.
(One more good thing about University Police: They seem to be pretty fair and decent. A few months ago, my car Pedro and I were banned from parking on campus because of several thousand parking tickets I had received. I wrote about this incident, and while it is not my usual writing style, I used a little sarcasm. Well, eventually, another hearing was held, and the ban was lifted, and I’m pretty glad about it, and since I wrote about being banned in the first place, I figured I should mention being un-banned too. You know, in the interest of justice, or something, or whatever.)
I originally thought going on a ride-along would provide endless amusing anecdotes about police work. I soon discovered that I was wrong on this count. However, I still felt obligated to write the column, for two reasons.
â€¢ One: I had written about being banned from parking on campus, so it only seemed fair to write about being un-banned. A column about police work would be a convenient time to make this correction.
â€¢ Two: As a result of the aforementioned banned-from-parking-on-campus column, some members of the BYU police force were a little unthrilled with me, and I determined that it was unwise to have people whose protection I may well need someday be angry with me. I hoped this very friendly column would change their minds. (Can you see me kissing up, especially at the end? I actually mean all those things I said, but I didn't usually say such syrupy things in "Snide Remarks.") Plus, I have friends who work with the police, and it was unfair for them to always have to be defending me.
So I wrote this column, and it's not great, but it's OK. It served its purpose, I think, so let's all just move on with our lives.