MUPD nightly routine illuminated through student ride along
Stolen vehicles, machetes and french horns are all in a night’s work for these officers.
Sep. 18, 2018
Walk down the streets of Greek Town on a Friday night and you’re certain to see houses pulsing with light and sound.
Tigers know how to party, but the lifestyle comes with risks. Underage drinking, drug use and driving under the influence are all too common. For the University of Missouri Police Dept., stopping these crimes is vital to preserving campus safety.
A Missouri native, MUPD Officer Zachary Chinea has never had a drop of alcohol. MU’s nightlife — and the drinking culture that surrounds it — is far different than what he grew up with while attending a smaller college. Read along to experience Chinea’s chronological experience Friday night.
Chinea’s comments have been edited for clarity.
7:28 p.m. : Traffic stop for an expired temporary license plate.
“The most common call we get is checking on well-being or traffic stops,” Officer Zachary Chinea says.. “A lot of the time, we get calls from family who live a ways away, wanting to check on their relatives’ well-being.”
The driver is delivering for Pickleman’s and is aware of their expired status. The driver just wants to make their delivery quickly and is cooperative.
“The color on a [permanent] plate signifies the year the plate expires,” he says.. “Yellow, for example, expires in 2019. Colors do repeat over the years, but there’s no clear pattern that I know of.”
8:20 p.m. : Traffic stop for running a stop sign.
“A lot of people don’t make complete stops,” Chinea says. “I’m not looking for everyone who doesn’t make a perfect stop. I want to get the person who blows right through a stop sign and would have hit or killed a pedestrian.”
When the driver is approached, Chinea notices a machete in the passenger seat.
“Having a machete in your passenger seat isn’t illegal,” he says. “I asked why [the subject] had it and they told me it was for personal protection. We don’t know what might’ve happened to them previously or why they feel like a machete is necessary.”
No search or arrest is made.
8:36 p.m. : Traffic stop for two students riding a motorcycle without helmets.
The passenger gets off of the motorcycle immediately and turns to face Chinea’s car. The driver remains seated. Chinea exits the car.
“When someone gets off/out of their vehicle immediately, as an officer, it makes you expect there to be conflict,” Chinea says. “You start to wonder, what are they so worried about that they needed to get up?”
Chinea begins talking with the two students and it becomes clear the situation is relaxed. Two other students approach while Chinea is talking to the ones he pulled over. The driver of the motorcycle retrieves a helmet when asked if he has one.
“I asked the two others to step off to the side and wait for their friends and they were very polite about it, which is what you want,” he says. “I let the student with the helmet ride the motorcycle and the other student has to walk.”
No search or arrest is made.
8:48 p.m. : Traffic stop for no headlights.
There are two people in the vehicle. The subject in the passenger seat begins turning their head back and forth to attempt to see where the officer is coming from.
“When a [subject] is turning around and trying to determine our location, it ramps up the situation from pretty low to fairly high quickly,” Chinea says. “When someone is trying to find our location, it can be because they want to hurt an officer. That’s why we have the light on the vehicle that we shine when we pull someone over, so they can’t see an officer’s location.”
After Chinea approaches the vehicle, the passenger calms down and begins smiling and chatting amiably. The two subjects are watched by another responding officer, who arrived after Chinea while they search for their insurance.
“Most traffic stops are cordial,” He says. “We don’t have the greatest reputation in the media and that can affect the way the interaction goes sometimes. I’m a by-the-book person, so everyone is treated equally.”
9:19 p.m. : Parking lot check.
Officer Chinea approaches an MU shed after hearing an odd noise; the noise makers turn out to be several MU students putting away their French horn instruments for the night.
Chinea asks the students who was playing and a student points to one of the others.
“He any good?” Chinea asks.
“I wouldn’t say that,” the student responds.
Chinea chats with the students for a minute longer then returns to the car.
“I try to have a good interaction with people and get a few laughs out, like when I asked if the student was any good at playing,” he says. “Not all interactions with police officers need to be bad.”
9:52 p.m. : Traffic stop for a motorcycle driving the wrong way down a one-way street.
Chinea responds when another officer requests backup. The motorcycle did not have plates and a search of the vehicle reveals that it had been hotwired. The subject sits on the ground, lights a cigarette and is subsequently arrested.
“Someone can be arrested for either stealing a motor vehicle or being in possession of a stolen motor vehicle,” Chinea says. “In order to determine if someone knows they’re in possession of a stolen vehicle, you look at three things. Does the driver have the title to the vehicle? Was it purchased below market value? Does the driver have the keys?”
Once the subject is secured in the police car, the officers call a tow truck to tow the motorcycle. They call the owners of the motorcycle according to the vehicle identification number, but are unable to contact them for the night.
“Stealing of a motor vehicle is a crime where they will get their photograph taken at the station, because it’s a more serious crime,” he says.
10:21 p.m. : Check subject for a MU student who appears intoxicated.
Chinea responds after the two initial officers. The officers separate two groups of students.
“The officers initially approached to check the subject because he was acting as if he were highly intoxicated, but when we got there he wasn’t actually that intoxicated,” Chinea says. “[The other group] were friends of his who had come to walk him home for the night. Once we got it all sorted out, we just talked to the other group about ride-alongs.”
The two groups reunite shortly thereafter and walk off together.
10:45 p.m. : Check subject for not using a crosswalk in front of car, bizarre behavior.
“Jaywalking is a pretty informal term,” Chinea says. “It can mean a lot of different things. Stepping out in front of a car is obviously illegal, but stepping out onto the road without a crosswalk when there are no cars coming is not.”
The subject appears to be under the influence, but no drugs are found on their person. They walk off in the opposite direction. The subject is spotted again, going a different direction, when Chinea drives down the same street a few minutes later.
“If someone consumed cocaine, it doesn’t necessarily mean [the subject who consumed it] becomes illegal,” he says. “It doesn’t make sense, because then the entire person would be illegal. The act of being under the influence of drugs is not illegal. But if they have it and then try to snort/stuff it real quick, it’s destruction of evidence.”
Edited by Morgan Smith | firstname.lastname@example.org