Like many departments on campus, Millersville University’s Police Department (MUPD) is understaffed and struggling with insufficient financial support.
“In the last few years,” said Patrol Sargent Flood, “we have had to be extremely fiscally responsible.” The Police Department, located in Lebanon House on N. George St., is hoping, if allocated the necessary funds, to fill several vacant positions.
Sgt. Flood began working at MUPD in 1999, as a part-time temporary security officer. On top of a 3 a.m. to 11 p.m shift at MUPD, Flood is taking classes at Millersville to earn his degree in Occupational Safety and Health. “The toughest part about being an officer,” said Flood, “is that people don’t fully understand the density of knowledge that officers are expected to know.”
The ride-along program was developed for students and faculty to experience the responsibilities of a police officer. On Nov. 22, during a ride-along with a student, Sgt. Flood patrolled several hot spots in MUPD’s jurisdiction. At 10:20 p.m., Flood spotted a car with unlit headlights on Fredrick Street – whipped his vehicle around at the cross section of Shenks and Fredrick Street – and ultimately stopped the vehicle at the Health Services parking lot on George Street. As with all traffic stops, Sgt. Flood typed the drivers license plate into his computer to check for warrants before getting out of his police vehicle. “The driver sounded cognizant and there were no signs of alcohol use,”said Flood, so he decided to let driver leave with a warning.
Sgt. Flood wanted to remind students that officers are not here to ruin peoples lives.
“Nothing an officer can do is worse than the university can do. It’s like a snowball effect,” said Flood.“The university gets word of all the kids who get in trouble on campus. If the university deems you a problem, then they can kick you out of the dorms.”
Approximately 12 students participate in the ride-along program each year. Most of the participants work at the information desk and are required to have a ride-along as part of their training.
After Sgt. Flood’s shift, Officer Byrnes, campus police officer and department website manager, allowed the student to continue to ride-along during his 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift. Officer Byrnes, graduate of Penn Manor High School, has been with MUPD for two years. “I have ADD” said Byrnes, “So doing something exciting and helping people helps to keep my attention.”
At 12:30 a.m., Officer Byrnes received his first call – a 1037 in progress – police code for an intoxicated individual. An an 18-year-old male student had thrown-up in the restroom of Harbold Hall and was walking around the halls in his boxers. Officer Yanak, in adherence to safety protocol, also responded to the call. The officers helped the student get dressed, had him take a breathalyzer test, and asked if he had taken any medication that evening. The insistent was called in by Taylor Fell, RA at Harbold Hall. Fell Said,”My least favorite part of being an RA is documenting people. I had to document two people this semester.”
Several friends of student had gathered in the hallway to check on the young man’s health. Officer Byrnes asked the students if they knew what happened and to help their friend if he needed a ride back from the hospital. At 12:45 a.m., the officers asked the student for basic information, including the phone numbers of his parents. The student was transported by EMS to Lancaster Regional Hospital shortly before 1 a.m. in the morning.
Another incident occurred at 1:16 a.m., when Byrnes was called to back-up Officer Cummins with a traffic stop. The officers smelled marijuana in the car, but the driver of the vehicle did not appear to be under the influence. The officers decided to let the driver go with a warning. With the ride-along scheduled to end at 2:30 a.m., the last incident occurred at 1:59 a.m. The call was for Officer Byrnes to assist Officer Cummins on the 200 block of George St. with a traffic stop. The driver was stopped for not having working headlights and taillights. The ride-along ended at 2:30 a.m. at the parking lot outside of the Lebanon House.
At MUPD, an officer starting off will make around the mid $30,000 range.
“When you’re just starting off here, it’s hard to support a family,” said Flood. “Young guys don’t make the money they could make other places. However, our officers have more opportunities and responsibilities, making them more marketable if they decide to leave MUPD.”