Mar 7, 2006

Behind the scenes with LUPD

by Joanne Tang


The sun is shining bright, the birds are chirping with all the energy they can muster and the weather lacks the usual nip of winter chill. What better day for Cpl. Aaron Tuttle to catch speeders and stop sign malcontents? At 4 p.m. Friday, March 3, Tuttle begins his patrol, his dark blue car a familiar sight for many students as they walk around campus.

Tuttle’s job holds one central purpose: to keep the peace. As part of the second shift at LUPD, which runs from 3 to 11 p.m., he drives around campus and the surrounding areas such as Wards Road and both 460 routes to ensure students are staying safe by obeying the speed limits and the traffic laws set in place. He also answers any calls put through by dispatch and will investigate if he is in the area.

Driving past the dining hall, Tuttle parks at the back of the parking lot and waits. The Wards Road ramp intersecting the train tracks is a busy place for drivers who are getting to Sonic or down to Wards Road. It is equally as busy for drivers coming onto campus or going towards the baseball field. As Tuttle waits, a red Subaru flies through, ignoring the stop sign completely. The squad car engine rumbles to life, and the red sedan doesn’t stand a chance. Those lights come to life, and follow the car down the ramp. Pulling over at the Sandrof auto body workshop at the base of the slope, the driver was ready with his registration and license when Tuttle got out.

“It’s great when they already know what they’ve done,” Tuttle said, with a laugh.
Heading back to main campus, Tuttle watches a group of pedestrians cross the road from the bottom of the hill steps, presumably on their way to the dining hall for dinner.

“You know how they say pedestrians have the right of way?” Tuttle said. He looks at the people, some stopping to wait for cars to pass, some freezing in the middle of the road as cars drive toward them and some not even caring about oncoming traffic. “They (the pedestrians) really take it to heart.”

At 11:30 p.m., the sun is long gone, the air has deserted the springtime warmth and has returned to being cold and windy. Tuttle is done for the day and to take his place is the third shift, working from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Officer Josh Dryden sits in his white car, ready to begin his patrol. The third shift patrols the entire campus and surrounding areas, like the second shift, but now everything is shut down for the night and it is up to third shift to take the late-night investigations and deal with the rush of cars coming in for curfew.

Out of the police academy for less than four months, Dryden has already seen his share of activity on the roads in and near Liberty. He usually sees students wandering around campus late at night and sees cars driving back onto campus toward dorms, speeding because they are late for curfew.

The third shift, he said, mostly receives calls about theft and gets the occasional medical call. Amid the obsidian-black sky lit by dim streetlights lining the main road, Dryden answers calls nightly, helping students with jumpstarts and escorting them back to their dorms. He has had a few instances where he has had to issue preliminary breath tests, which measure blood alcohol concentration.

Dryden is parked in the parking lot to the side of DeMoss, and his radar is whirring and crackling as cars drive up and down University Boulevard. At about 1 a.m. a silver Chevy Trailblazer hurls through the intersection, not tapping the brake even once, and continues to drive. Dryden shifts the car into drive and like a scene from a movie, he takes off after the SUV. The driver of the Trailblazer is driving onto the 460 West ramp by the time Dryden’s car is at the beginning of the circle loop. He follows the car down the ramp and floors it as he hits open road.

The roads are empty save for a few cars here and there, and off in the distance the speck of red taillights belonging to a stop sign malcontent and speed demon takes another turn, this time towards Wards Road. The police car, reaching speeds that would give grandmothers heart attacks, follows. Dryden catches up to the SUV and flips the switch. Instantly, the night sky is lit up by blue and red. The familiar whoop of the siren call blasts through the crisp air. The Trailblazer turns into McDonald’s and receives a visit from not only LUPD, but also a Lynchburg police officer that happens to be there.

Some students dislike LUPD, but they don’t often see the events that go on behind the scenes. According to Dryden even catching speeders and issuing tickets is important because drivers who don’t stop at stop signs may risk hitting a car that is turning, or a pedestrian. Things like this have happened in the past, and it is up to LUPD, and officers such as Tuttle and Dryden to prevent them from happening in the future.

“Most students don’t think we’re a real police department,” Dryden says. “They don’t know we’ve got real police officers.”

What is another misconception about police officers that Dryden would like to clear up?

“I don’t like donuts,” said Dryden, laughing.

Contact Joanne Tang at jtang@liberty.edu.


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