An insider’s look into the night patrol of a University police officer

During an average night on duty, a police officer can deal with everything from loitering to shootings. University Police Officer Kevin Randolph took The Minnesota Daily on a ride-along Feb. 22 to show students what police do on a regular shift.

11:30 p.m. Transportation and Safety Building

“Before we head out, let me show you the pepper gun,” Randolph said before pulling something resembling a paintball gun from a shelf.

The difference, he said, was this gun does not shoot balls of paint at 350 psi, but balls of chemical irritant at 2,000 psi.

“This gives us another option,” he said, slipping the gun into a duffel bag. “It’s also got a longer range than our tasers.”

As the police department’s night shift came on duty, Randolph was one of three officers on patrol.

His car resembled a well-armed airplane cockpit. Next to three different microphones, a police radio and laptop computer was an AR-15, a civilian version of the U.S. Army’s M-16 assault rifle.

“They’re better than a shotgun,” Randolph said. “It’s the safest you can have in firepower because of accuracy and lack of penetration. It’s actually more accurate than our sidearm.

“It’s a much better gun in terms of doing exactly what you want.”

11:45 p.m. East Bank

First cruising the streets of the East Bank, Randolph crossed the river and headed south. He said that although the department’s primary responsibility is the campus, officers aren’t confined to it.

“Our calls are a priority, but we can’t sit on campus and say we’re doing the best job we can, because the students don’t stay on the campus,” he said.

11:55 p.m. University Avenue Southeast

As Randolph turned onto University Avenue Southeast, he randomly ran the license plate of a red sport utility vehicle through the department’s system. It was the fourth or fifth car he randomly chose to check out.

This time, the owner’s license was expired, and Randolph pulled the car over to see who was driving.

Not only was the owner, a University student, driving with an expired license but his blood alcohol level was higher than the legal limit. A mostly empty case of beer could be seen in the back of the vehicle

Randolph placed the driver in the back of his car and began searching the pulled-over vehicle with other officers.

They found empty bottles of over-the-counter medications and a glass pipe with what Randolph said appeared to be marijuana residue.

The driver argued with Randolph for a while. He said the pipe wasn’t his and that he received the medication from his mom.

The driver said his mother would verify his story.

“Do you really want me calling your mother?” Randolph said. “Because if I do, I’m telling her everything.”

Randolph eventually sent the driver home with a ticket. The vehicle was towed.

1:10 a.m. southeast corner of the West Bank

Randolph said that he used to work as a health and career consultant until deciding a few years ago that he wasn’t happy with his job.

He said he had always wanted to be a cop, so he went back to school. The University was the first place he interviewed, and he liked the department. It offered the benefit of an urban department without the hassles of a big city, such as Minneapolis, Randolph said.

“My pet peeve, though, is that we’re a full-on police department, but a lot of people think of us as campus security,” he said.

Soon, the radio crackled, and another officer asked Randolph to join him in a parking lot near Mixed Blood Theatre, near the West Bank campus.

The officer said he found a sport utility vehicle abandoned in the middle of the lot with its engines running. There was a man standing nearby. The officer asked the man if the car was his, and he said it wasn’t. But when the officer turned to search the car, the man took off running down an embankment next to the lot.

When Randolph and the other officer searched the car, which turned out to be a rental car, they found items belonging to a man with a warrant for his arrest. Although they weren’t sure if it was the same man who left the scene, they said it was likely.

Soon after, Randolph drove around the neighborhood, hoping to find the man, but had no luck.

1:55 a.m. just east of campus

While performing a routine traffic stop, a report of a purse snatching in Dinkytown came over the radio. Randolph flipped on his lights and sirens and sped down University Avenue Southeast.

A few minutes later, he pulled into a parking lot next to a pickup truck with three women inside. Randolph started to get out of his squad car when another officer reported seeing the suspect enter a house two blocks away.

“We got him!” Randolph yelled out the window to the women, who cheered as he sped out of the lot.

Two minutes later, he arrived at a house on 15th Avenue Southeast. Two cars from the Minneapolis Police Department arrived at the same time.

Randolph jumped out of the car, then paused, shrugged and reached back in to grab his rifle. He slung the rifle over his shoulder and headed up the steps with the other officers.

A few minutes later, the officers escorted the suspect out of the house and placed him in one of the cars.

Randolph said the man was arrested a week earlier and was released the previous day. The man had a history of drugs and alcohol, Randolph said.

Randolph returned the purse to its owner, as the other officers took the suspect away.

The parking lot cleared out quickly, and Randolph resumed his patrol.

“I love working at night,” Randolph said as he headed down to the Mississippi River.

“I’ve come in during the day, and it just drives me insane. At night, there’s less people. It’s a lot easier to tell who the bad guys are.”

– Freelance editor Steven Snyder welcomes comments at [email protected]