To Protect and To Serve
A day in the life of an NDSU Campus Police Officer
Published: Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 9, 2013 17:09
A uniform is always an intimidating sight to young adults, especially on a university campus. The Spectrum took this opportunity to go behind the scenes and present to you a day in the life of a campus police patrol officer.
The day began with me riding with Officer Christopher Potter in his patrol SUV. As most people may remember, Officer Potter is the newest member of the 17 personnel force that forms the NDSU Campus Police. He was sworn in last September.
These officers are like any other police officers and have the same amount of authority as regards to arrests and ticketing.
A law enforcement officer for the past 20 years, Officer Potter has a beaming smile and polite demeanor complemented well with the authoritative uniform he dons. He bikes to work every day, as he is also an instructor for the bike patrol unit of the NDSU Campus Police. Besides this, he is a firearms instructor, Greek Life liaison and also a liaison officer for Niskanen Hall. He prefers day shifts from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. as it helps him to balance his work and family life. At the age of 44, Christopher is a father to a 21-year-old daughter.
Only a few minutes into the meeting I asked him the stereotypical question about his favorite doughnuts in town. Officer Potter laughed out loud and said, “I do not like doughnuts; I am a pizza person.” Spicy Pie is his favorite pizza joint, as it is in his patrol route.
Officer Potter is a graduate from MSUM in Recreation Management. He went to the Devil’s Lake Police Academy for his Peace Officer’s training program. He started out as a patrol officer in Jamestown in 1993 and moved to Fargo PD after six months. Before coming to NDSU, he worked as an School Resource Officer with the Fargo Public Schools department, where he developed a passion to work with young people.
Despite his years of experience, Potter’s first week on the job at NDSU was full of firsts. For example, the infamous bomb threat happening at NDSU.
He recalls, “I was by the Putnam Hall, and I noticed that the only sound I could hear on the campus was of the birds chirping. It was so deserted that it was eerie.”
Officer Potter says the hardest part of the job is dealing with people at their worst, especially when they are emotional, but explains that these moments make him stronger.
Potter’s job is also full of many positives and says he enjoys seeing students wave at him, as he drives by on his patrol rounds. He wishes that students would understand that the police are here to ensure their safety and not to bust them.
“People think we are her to bust them, which is a misconception, or that cops are hardcore and just want to arrest people and write tickets,” Potter said. “No, we are also humans and working with young people; we realize that sometimes there are other ways of deterring students. Enforcement is a tool, but so is education, and sometimes it is more effective.”
The patrol rounds also involved using a LIDAR to check for speeding vehicles. Unlike most people’s perceptions, the police don’t necessarily hide to bust speeders. In fact they wait in plain sight and act as deterrents to drivers, especially at what he calls as “fishing holes” around the campus where speeding could be dangerous to the numerous pedestrian students going to and from classes.
The NDSU campus police has its own dispatch unit which monitors all 911 phone calls made from campus phones, keeps an eye on feeds from 59 cameras at strategic locations on campus and also monitors 25 blue emergency poles on campus, which can also be used to make local phone calls by students stranded on campus.
The dispatch also constantly monitors emails sent to the campus police and the text-a-tip line, where a student can anonymously report any information about malicious or criminal activity by sending a message to (701) 526-6006. Another service offered by NDSU Campus Police is storage of hunting rifles and other arms that are prohibited on campus. Students can check in their weapons with the campus police is safe-kept until hunting season when students can check them out for the game.
My night ride with Officer Allen Grensteiner was slightly more eventful, thanks to a couple traffic stops and community-oriented policing (the origin for the word COP). Like Officer Potter, he too doesn’t like doughnuts and is a Spicy Pie fan. Allen Grensteiner graduated with a degree in Business Management and Criminal Justice and got his police training in Fargo through Lake Region State College. Law enforcement was always something he wanted to do. Officer Grensteiner has two boys aged three and four. Besides patrolling, he also trains new recruits and is a Rape Aggression Defense instructor and works with Sarah Dodd. Paradoxically, he says he loves night hours because it works well with his family life.
On similar lines as Officer Potter, he says, “I love this job. There is a lot of good diversity at NDSU and I want the students to know that we are not here to ruin their fun and that we are here for them if they need us.” He is a liaison officer for Living and Learning Center. When asked about his favorite comic book super hero, Allen jokes, “Does Bugs Bunny qualify?”
Toward the end of the night I noticed that unlike most other employees, these officers are as alert at the end of their shift as they are at the beginning. With these 12 men and five women in dedicated service of the university, we can rest assured that the campus is safe and a fun place to study. So next time you see a patrol car drive by, do not forget to wave at them.