It was a Friday night when I went for a ride-along with Officer Andy Leslie of the Fort Collins Police Department. First off, a little about me. My name is Spencer Nolan and I am the ASCSU Director of Health. I’m writing this article to inform students about the lesser-known side of police work.
The night started with me realizing that the actual department was closed, which threw me for a loop. After calling dispatch, the Desk Sergeant let me in, though he was definitely not expecting me. After letting him know that I was there to do a ride along with Officer Leslie, everything was cleared up and we moved forward. The officers in the Neighborhood Enforcement Team (NET) tell jokes and make banter in a quick manner. If you don’t keep up, you might miss a quip or punchline. Everyone was at ease in his or her position, and soon we started to head out into the neighborhood around campus.
Let me say right off the bat that it was considered a quiet night that Friday. We found a party with many, many people who streamed out the front door once we showed up, but the interesting part happened about one half a block down where we ran into a man drinking alcohol out of a Camelbak, which qualifies as an open container by Colorado law. Out of all the people we stopped that night, this man was the most belligerent. He escalated the situation by arguing with the officers about what constitutes and open container, while he was also quite intoxicated. He became so belligerent that he almost spent the rest of his night in the back of the car. Fortunately for him, the officers let him go with just a ticket that he can appeal.
At a time where police across the country are under harsh scrutiny, and not without good reason, it’s refreshing to see a night where things were relatively peaceful and where the officers were kind and courteous up to a point. The obvious lesson that I took from the ride-along experience was that, first and foremost, don’t break the law. Pretty simple, but it’s also the easiest way to get caught. The other lesson that I learned is this: if you’re going to get a ticket for something illegal that you quite obviously did, don’t escalate the situation. This country has a system where you can appeal your ticket before a judge, and that is where you should explain your case. Taking a ticket for an open container of alcohol is much better than being arrested for something that you could have just walked away from.
On a much more somber note, I was informed that we had at least three calls regarding suicide during the time that I was in the car. According to Officer Leslie, those are just the people who are fortunate enough to have a call go through. The people who don’t call are the ones who don’t make it. Once again, this was a relatively quiet night.
In my position as director of health with the Associated Students of Colorado State University, as well as in the mental illness community, I can say that this is terrifying. Even if those survivors make it to a hospital, we live in a country that is much more concerned with stabilization and not treatment. Many people who are hospitalized are kicked out of the hospital the moment that they feel “better,” but do not receive the aftercare to keep them stable in the world at large.
We need to enact a permanent revolution in this area so that those who deal with a mental disability are treated with respect and continuity in their care. I went out on this ride along to see parties get dispersed, but I came back with the knowledge that there are people in our community who are not getting the help that they need and deserve.
CSU is a community that cares for you. If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol and/or experiencing depression, anxiety, overwhelming stress or thoughts of hurting yourself or others please know there is help available. Counseling Services has trained professionals who can help.
Contact 970-491-6053 or go to http://health.colostate.edu. If you are concerned about a friend or peer, tell someone by calling 970-491-1350 to discuss your concerns with a professional who can discreetly connect the distressed individual with the proper resources (http://safety.colostate.edu/tell-someone.aspx).
Rams take care of Rams. Reach out and ask for help if you or someone you know is having a difficult time.