The Easterner spends the night with the EWU Police Department

And no, we were not under arrest

By Josh Fletcher, News Editor

When I signed all the necessary forms to do this ride-along, I didn’t expect to be told where the lever was to unlock the shotgun.

“This is how you unlock the rifle if I need you to,” EWU police officer Jose Villasano said.

Villasano gave me a quick rundown of everything in the police car March 15 before we left the Red Barn. It felt good to be in the front seat of the police car, the back didn’t seem very friendly.

The shift started differently than I would have expected, by making a trip to a young child’s apartment who Villasano made contact with a few days prior. Villasano wanted to stop by and make sure the boy was doing OK and drop off a teddy bear for him.

“We do community policing,” said Villasano. “We want to show that we are here for you if you ever need us.”

Unfortunately the boy wasn’t home when we stopped by, so the teddy bear would have to spend the rest of the night with us.

After perusing the parking lots, we headed over to the Phase building to watch the tail end of a self-defense class. EWU police officers will do these every few times a quarter to teach students how to defend themselves in dangerous situations.

“And then, go for the fruit basket,” Officer Nick Bickley said to the students. The fruit basket, of course, is the area on a man that he really would not like to be punched or grabbed in this situation.

The class had about a dozen students who Officer Bickley showed simple moves to counter-attacks from behind, identify an attack and provide confidence for the mostly female class.

“At the beginning of the year we will have so many people who sign up that we have to rent the basketball court to fit everybody,” Villisano said.

After leaving the Phase, we went to the dorms to walk the halls and interact with students and CA’s.

Villasano walked into every building, asking the same question, “Hey how’s your night going?” The CA’s have become good friends with Villasano and the other campus officers who come through the dorms. This is another part of community policing.

After a few minutes of chit-chat, Villasano reminded the CA’s, “If you need anything, give me a call. We’ll be around.”

What was most apparent was the focus, talking to every student we walked by just to ask how their night was going. Most responded with a “good,” and some seemed afraid a police officer was talking to them.

“Some people are like that, but most are nice,” Villasano said.

Walking is something Villasano spends a lot of  time doing while on patrol. Racking up about 18,000 steps which can come to around nine miles of walking in a 10 hour and 40 minute shift of campus police work.

Something Villasano is always aware of is other police who make reports over the radio that they’ve stopped somebody.

“We always want to stop by just to make sure everything is OK and they don’t need any extra backup,” Villasano said.

One of the resources students have in non emergency situations is calling 359-7676, which will put you directly through to an officer on duty. Villasano said 95 percent of the time they get calls from students who locked their keys in their car or need help because they got stuck in the snow.

At the end of the night what became most evident was the connection the officers want to make with students. They want them to feel comfortable talking to them and reaching out. Like bringing a teddy bear to a troubled kid to show he is loved.