April 20, 2004

CUPD: Serving Severely

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Oh CUPD, how you do bother me. Enforcing the law with such attitude, your behavior to students is most often just rude. When not sipping coffee in your new SUV’s, you peruse the streets, busting C-town revelers and fraternity parties. Making sure we are safe seems priority part deux, taking advantage of your badge tops the list for many of you. Don’t get me wrong, some Cornell cops are great, and those who are, we truly appreciate. But the bad apples on your tree outnumber the good: many on your force do more to scare than provide the care you should. Cornell students, hardly criminals of any sort, deserve better than this treatment if you want our support. Though drunk and dumb from time to time, rarely do we constitute perpetrators of any major crime. So please heed my advice in this complaint; you’ve gone too far and need to change how you operate.

The most recent and ridiculous CUPD intervention to which I’ve been privy occurred last week at Barton Hall. Two of my friends went to Barton to shoot baskets. Their harmless court time turned criminal when not one, not two, but three CUPD officers arrived on the scene to break up the game.

As my buddies (we’ll call them Dan and Gene) walked into Barton Hall, they passed a monitor, who was engaged in phone call. Shortly after Dan and Gene began to shoot, the monitor walked over and said that they couldn’t play, that the gym was closed until 7 because of track practice. So Dan asked if he and Gene could continue to play if the track coach gave his permission. The monitor said fine, and Dave went to ask.

The coach, Nathan Taylor, found no problem with Dan and Gene’s request. In fact, he thanked them for being so courteous and directed them to a hoop near the end of the court, where his athletes would not be disturbed.

Nonetheless, the table monitor still came over and said she would call the cops if the two didn’t leave. Minutes later, the riot squad rolled in.

Initially, two CUPD officers approached Dan and Gene, who explained the situation. These officers were understanding, but nonetheless bound by Barton rules: even though Taylor had given his OK, Dan and Gene had to go. Disappointed, they left. But through the Barton doors, Dan and Gene could see another CUPD cruiser clutching the curb.

“Did you get their names?” the car’s officer yelled to the other two cops as he entered the hangar. They hadn’t.

“all right, let me see some ID,” he told the Dan and Gene, taking control of the situation.

Dan had brought his wallet, so he showed his Cornell card. Still unsatisfied, the officer demanded a driver’s license too, which Dan also produced. Then it was Gene’s turn.

But Gene didn’t have any ID on him — he’d left it back at his house. In lieu of a license, the third officer asked Gene where he lived instead. Having just seen Dan hand over both his school and house information, Gene asked for clarification, saying, “What do you mean: where do I live here or where is my real home?”

Apparently infuriated by this rather reasonable question, one of the original officers joined the interrogation, yelling “Answer the fucking question!”

Gene — who stands about 5’8,” has small hands, and would never hurt a fly — promptly complied, saying that his entire wallet was at his house. He got a JA anyway.

Nice bust CUPD. I always see that kid playing H.O.R.S.E. when there are other people in the gym — now he’s finally going to pay the price!

One of these incidents wouldn’t bother me much, but I can’t say this is the first time I’ve heard of or experienced some hyper-reactive CU po-po. My tryst with the Cornell PD began on a sunny summer afternoon almost a year ago. A bunch of my friends, all 21 or older, had spent the July fourth weekend here in Ithaca. They bought kegs, cases, and a few bottle rockets. They barbecued on the back porch. They had a harmless good time. After returning home from a lazy day of lounging in the gorges, three Cornell police officers confronted me in my foyer. Startled, I politely asked if they needed any help.

Instead of explaining the situation, the officer in charge barked back at me to hand over my Cornell ID, unless I wanted to accompany him downtown in a patrol car. Not wanting to leave Cornell with a rap sheet or the nickname “Jailbait,” I obliged.

Apparently my friends had left some kegs in the room the night before. Kegs, if you didn’t know, are illegal in Cornell-owned buildings (you learn something new every day).

As the officer sat down on a couch, he told me I was the “contact person” on his official report on the barrels of booze.

“What exactly does that mean? Am I being charged with anything?” I asked.

“No, you’re just the contact. Didn’t you hear what I just said or were you not listening,” he muttered while checking off boxes on his form. Then, with a glaring evil eye, he asked me to sign the form, and I reluctantly jotted my John Hancock.

As soon as the tactless triumvirate left, I sat down and began typing a letter to CUPD.

“If we have broken the law, we will accept the consequences,” I wrote in so many words, “but I had absolutely nothing to do with this event, and your officers behaved in completely rude and unprofessional way… I respect the job they do, but behavior like that I experienced today makes it difficult.”

It turns out I was not alone in this sentiment.

As I sat at my computer typing, a friend (we’ll call him Dirk) came to my room saying he wanted to add something to my e-mail: the night before, an CUPD officer had behaved excessively while trying to arrest his girlfriend for virtually no reason.

The story unfolds the night before, when Dirk’s girlfriend (we’ll call her Courtney) got caught red handed in a MagLight tractor beam doing the unthinkable: picking up one spent bottle rocket. Though Courtney was innocently cleaning up our mess, the officer treated her like a felon.

“You’re under arrest for possession of fireworks,” he barked, grabbing her tightly by the wrist. “I need some ID. Let me see it.”

As Courtney explained that she had left her license upstairs, the officer’s vice around her wrist grew tighter.

“I’ll get it, but it’s upstairs. Can you please let go, you’re hurting me,” she said.

Dirk, who was standing by her side as the incident unfolded, also asked the officer to release her. “No, I’m holding her until I see some ID,” the officer said, unmoved.

Despite producing a valid Jersey license, which showed Courtney was 19, the officer detained the two further while he called in the license number. Good thing Sherlock was on this case; those fake 18-year-old licenses are really becoming a major problem at R-rated movies.

While these stories may portray the CUPD as overzealous (and rightly so), officers like Richard Stickel don’t deserve to be found guilty by association. Stickel impressed me last year when he came to my house to introduce himself, explain CUPD policies, and extend an olive branch with a promise of cooperation and help. I’m sure he’s as good a cop as any on this force, but I doubt Stickel is the strong-armed stickler some of his CUPD coworkers are. And that’s a shame.

Everett Hullverson is a Sun Assistant Sports Editor. Chew On This will appear every other Tuesday this semester.

Archived article by Everett Hullverson