On Patrol with EWU PD

By Linsey Garrison, Staff Writer


Students flooded out of the residence halls and into tightly packed bars last Thursday night on Sept. 28 to take part in “First Thursday.” The night proved to be eventful for the EWU and Cheney police departments.

Corporal Elvin Bermudez estimated that at least a dozen separate incidents occurred that required police or medical assistance.

“Overall, we have a lot of good students, it’s just a select few that decide to make problems or get in fights,” said Bermudez.

Multiple police agencies were on duty and prepared to deal with students and party-goers who had decided to have too much to drink. Seven EWU police officers, including Chief Tim Walters, five Cheney police officers, including Chief John Hensley, two state patrol officers, two county sheriffs and a Washington state liquor control board officer were all present at various locations in downtown Cheney.

Several EWU officials also decided to observe the nightlife with police and do a few walk-throughs of the downtown bars. The new Dean of Students Dr. Amy Johnson joined OSRR Director Stacy Reece and Advisor for Leadership Education Samantha Armstrong.

As the calls started rolling in around midnight officers scattered to various locations around Cheney to deal with students who had partied a little too hard or gotten out of hand.

The majority of the incidents for the night were medical related. Paramedics were called when a student fell and injured her head in a parking lot near Goofy’s bar. Officers conducted wellness checks for several other students who were reported by friends or neighbors when they were sick or seen vomiting outside and on sidewalks.

Multiple fights occurred at The Basement and several suspects initially fled the scene. One suspect was later apprehended a few blocks away. Kathy Ferguson, a bartender at The Basement, witnessed one of the fights and said it was nearly over before it began because another bartender was able to break it up.

“He jumped over the bar to stop it, the security were right there with him to get it under control as well,” said Ferguson, “We didn’t [have to call the police] because they were already there. They just kind of saw that they got escorted out.”

An open container citation was given to a resident after an officer patrolled by a house and noticed a group of people had set up a beer pong table outside in their yard and were actively playing beer pong. Multiple police cars also moved hastily over to the Grove when domestic dispute was reported between a male and a female student.

Two food trucks were parked on opposite sides of the street next to the bars, providing students with a much needed alcohol sponge if they happened to be craving hotdogs or hamburgers.

“A lot of people come here [to Cheney] and think that ‘[the police officers] are from little old podunk Cheney. They can’t handle us, we can get away with stuff,’“ said Bermudez, “but really most of our officers come from or worked in other places that are really big like New York.”

Deputy Chief Gary Gassling noted that while a fair amount of non-students make their way to Cheney for events like First Thursday, it’s mostly EWU students who get in trouble in Cheney.

“Lots of WSU and GU students come here for [this event] but our students leave and go to [WSU and GU’s] campuses too. Sometimes we get calls from other university’s police department about one of our students, and sometimes we have to call them about one of their students,” said Gassling.

After Thursday night’s spike in criminal activity, Dean of students Amy Johnson sent out a letter on Friday September 28th urging students to make better choices during the coming weekend.

“We are concerned by the number of student behavior incidents recently, some resulting in arrests. Particularly as we prepare for tomorrow’s football matchup… Please know that the EWU and Cheney Police will be out in full force in order to ensure our safety and security,” said Johnson

According to Stacey Reece, the City of Cheney requested that a few EWU officials do the walk through to get first hand experience of what atmosphere is like. She observed that while the concept of First Thursday has not changed, the number of students participating has increased.

“Sometimes student behaviors during nights like this can bring about concern.  We think [a walk through] is a good way to show the students that we care about what they do and that we are here to enforce behavioral expectations both on and off campus,” said Reese, “It is easy to see how behavioral issues can quickly develop when there are so many people in small enclosed areas.”

Reese says that in the future she would like to see a community partnership formed, including bar owners, so that the negative effects that sometimes arise from events like First Thursday can be discussed.

“I think an environment can be created where students who are of age can go and enjoy themselves at a bar… but do not need to drink to such excess that they find themselves in fights or in trouble with law enforcement,” said Reese.

“It is not uncommon to see University officials do walk-abouts like this one… having a more regular presence during events like this might become the norm,” said Reese