A night out with U police

During a ride-along Friday, a Daily reporter saw what it takes to police campus.

UMPD officer Dan Farrar pulls over driver with expired tabs, Friday evening.

Stephen Offerman

UMPD officer Dan Farrar pulls over driver with expired tabs, Friday evening.

Nicholas Studenski

As students flocked to Dinkytown on Friday night, their eager shouts and laughter were audible through the cracked window of what Daniel Farrar calls his office — a Ford Police Interceptor.

While University of Minnesota Police Department officers are allowed to listen to music when patrolling, Farrar said he prefers not to — so he can hear what’s going on outside.

A Minnesota Daily reporter and photographer rode along with Farrar on Friday night from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Farrar graduated from the University in 2002 with a degree in sociology of law, criminology and deviance.

He’s been a University police officer for six years. On Friday, he was working the midshift, which runs from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Farrar said he likes the night shift better, but midshift allows him to spend more time with his wife and 3-year-old son. It also lets him see a variety of activities.

Friday was a “slow night,” Farrar said, joking that he has a curse that nothing major ever happens when he has someone riding along.

His favorite places to eat on campus are Chipotle and Kowloon Restaurant. Despite the stereotype, Farrar said he doesn’t like donuts much.

“I’m not a sweets guy,” he said.

7:30 p.m.

Farrar entered the police station garage on the lower level of the Washington Avenue Parking Ramp.

Inside, he went through his equipment, including a Taser, which he said is one of his most useful tools because it allows him to control people without seriously injuring them.

Farrar trains other officers to use the Taser, and said he’s had to be on the receiving end multiple times.

“It really hurts, but it hurts for five seconds,” he said.

7:47 p.m.

Farrar pulled his Ford Police Interceptor — a modified Ford Explorer — out of the station. University police have replaced most of their older Crown Victorias with the newer Interceptors.

Among improvements to the new cars are ballistic panels in the driver and passenger doors.

Farrar’s area of coverage Friday was the West Bank and the East Bank south of Washington Avenue Southeast. He said cars were also assigned to areas including St. Paul and the East Bank north of Washington Avenue.

Depending on the priority level of a call, officers can be dispatched to areas outside of their area in order to respond as quickly as possible.

8:12 p.m.

Farrar pulled the car through the parking lot of the Community-University Health Care Center in south Minneapolis.

Properties like this, he said, stretch the boundaries of the area police have to monitor. Though far from the rest of University, the clinic is University property, and so it falls under University police jurisdiction.

Everything was clear, so he moved on.

8:32 p.m.

Farrar got a call about a triggered panic alarm in Goldy’s Gameroom at Coffman Union.

Because the alarm could mean someone was in immediate danger, the call was listed as “priority one” — the highest priority level. Farrar turned on his lights and wove in and out of traffic. As he drove, voices on the radio talked about finding a direct phone number for Goldy’s Gameroom and checking the area’s security cameras.

After looking around inside Goldy’s Gameroom, Farrar spoke to the employees behind the counter, who told him they must have triggered the alarm accidentally. Farrar said panic alarms are often triggered by mistake, but police need to take them seriously.

“The one time you treat it like a false alarm could be the time someone is in danger,” he said.

8:49 p.m.

Farrar got a call about a smell of marijuana in the 17th Avenue Residence Hall. Because no one was in immediate danger, the call was listed as a priority two, and Farrar drove normally.

The Community Advisor led him to the room in question, where, after sniffing around, he knocked.

“Do you have any idea why a police officer might be here tonight?” he asked the residents.

Possession of a small amount of marijuana is a petty misdemeanor in Minnesota, Farrar said — an offense that falls at the same level as a speeding ticket.

For minor violations like this, Farrar said he’s able to decide how to charge the suspects based on the situation.

Farrar told the five students if they were cooperative and gave up all of their marijuana and paraphernalia, he would let them off with a warning.

“Is that binding?” one of the students asked, extending her hand to shake on it.

9:23 p.m.

A white party bus passed Farrar’s police car.

At his pre-shift meeting, where officers hear announcements for the shift ahead, Farrar received intelligence from the St. Paul Police Gang Unit that a party bus carrying gang members — suspects of a crime Farrar didn’t elaborate on — was planning to arrive in Dinkytown later that night.

Farrar ran the bus’s license plate and found that the owner wasn’t the same as the bus he was looking for.

9:46 p.m.

Farrar pulled into University Fleet Services to fill up the car.

10:01 p.m.

Farrar switched on his lights and pulled over a car near the 10th Avenue Bridge.

As he stopped, Farrar spoke the car’s license plate number into the radio, using the phonetic alphabet for each letter. The car had expired tabs and a burnt-out headlight.

Farrar said similar to the marijuana incident, he’s able to decide whether to issue a ticket based on the circumstances.

He looked up the license plate in his computer and found the driver had no previous offenses. Farrar said because the driver was cooperative and his record was clean, he let him off with a warning.

“The beautiful thing about police work is that there’s no right answer,” he said.

10:16 p.m.

Another party bus pulled up next to Farrar at a stoplight. He shone his spotlight inside and ran the license plate. The plate belonged to the same owner as the first party bus — still not the suspect the gang unit warned him about.

10:23 p.m.

Farrar drove slowly through an alley in the Seward neighborhood, where he said narcotic activity has been a problem in the past.

Several cars were parked in the alley, and the only people around were a man and a child walking together.

10:28 p.m.

Farrar noticed a bike left against the railing of the Biking and Pedestrian Bridge. He got out and looked around to make sure nobody was injured. No one was nearby.

10:46 p.m.

A call came in about a severely injured person running from a house party in Southeast Como.

Farrar drove through the neighborhood up and down the streets where the man was last seen, searching with his spotlight. He stopped to ask a man walking his dog whether he’d seen anything suspicious.

10:51 p.m.

Another officer found the injured man a few blocks from Farrar’s car. The man wasn’t injured as seriously as was initially reported, and the other officer had the situation under control, so Farrar went back to patrolling.

11:10 p.m.

An officer across the intersection flashed his lights at a car that had been tailgating him and driving erratically.

The car drove for a few blocks until the officer instructed the driver through the squad car’s speaker to pull over. Farrar and the other officer pulled the vehicle over. The driver didn’t have a valid driver’s license or car insurance, so the officer arranged for the car to be towed and charged the man for not having insurance.

11:30 p.m.

Farrar turned the car over to the night shift officers.

He still had two and a half hours left of his shift, which he uses to patrol on foot or finish paperwork — a tedious necessity.

“In the end for me, I did not want to sit behind a desk every day and stare at a computer screen,” he said. “I come into work every day, and I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen.”