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Creature Comforts

News & Features | October 26, 2009

While Tufts was still recovering from the marathon beverage consumption of Homecoming weekend, the Observer rode around with Tufts’ finest (in the best way possible, we promise) to get to know some of the Starskys, Hutchs, Lieutenant Dangles and Superbad cops that help us out and keep us safe day in and day out. Although all was quiet on the P-Row front and we didn’t use the sirens once, excitement still filled the air.

Lieutenant Domenic Pugliares gave us his play by play explanation for the lull. “What’s really busy is the beginning of the year, because a lot of the freshmen, as you know, don’t realize there’s studying to be done until the end of September, and then it’s like ‘holy shit, I gotta’ buckle down here!’”

“I feel like we’re letting you down tonight, we’re not bringing anything to the table,” Corporal Anthony Regan laments. But really, it’s not their call. The police are a reactionary force, and their main function is service. Their duties include, outside of enforcing the legal drinking age and unlocking the occasional dorm room, operating a safety escort for students and assisting wherever possible. In the first half hour of my time with TUPD, they had already completed four escorts, and they’re happy to do them.

“We feel like we grew up with you guys,” Officer Colon, who was riding shotgun this night with Corporal Regan, chimed. “We see you from the first day you come in to the day you graduate…we create this kind of relationship between student and officer.”

Corporal Regan, with TUPD for nine years, and Officer Jose Colon, who joined TUPD the year after last, keep the pulse of campus. During their 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift they make laps of campus and keep an eye out for situations and students that need assistance. We drove past Houston Hall and the acute senses of Officer Colon picked up on a seemingly mundane scene of a student calling up to a window. We circled back around. “We always like to pay attention to details,” he tells me just before launching into an exhaustive list of possibilities, from the student being locked out to trying to sneak beer in through the windows. “You never know.”

And what about when the situation is a little stickier than a forgotten key? “It’s amazing,” Lieutenant Pugliares raves. “Everybody’s cooperative.” There is the occasional miscommunication, however. With regards to determining where an individual lives, he sometimes receives the vague and witty response “Medford,” to which Pugliares has this to say. “Well no kidding. That’s like saying, ‘where do you live?’—the world.”

Other officers, such as Officer Eric Morales, also hold a very understanding attitude towards the Tufts students. Though the Police Department does their best to educate the student body on drugs, alcohol, and campus safety, Morales understands that much of what he encounters is commonplace on a college campus. When asked if he finds the current behavior of students as being on a steady decline, Morales mater-of-factly states, “There have been parties on P-Row before you came to college, and there will [continue to be] be parties on P-Row, and the same thing…so nothing has really changed.”

Morales does recognize the fact that many students only have negative encounters with the Tufts Police. “There is always a percentage of students who aren’t going to like us, for whatever reason,” Morales says, “But we have a good rapport with the students, I think. I believe I do.” Morales finds that his relationship with the people with whom he interacts is just as important as any other part of the job, if not more important. He recalls helping an upset mother on Freshman move-in day a few years ago, assuring her of her son’s happiness and safety. He recalls how touching it was to receive an e-mail from her shortly thereafter, thanking him for his reassurance. Morales mentions, “I have had students come up to me and say ‘thank you’. Like tonight, I had a student come up to me and say ‘thank you for what you’re doing tonight’. And that means a lot, you know?”

Morales’ job oscillates between the exciting and the painful, though he never takes it lightly. “Our job can be very stressful,” he cautions, “I can be going right now to drop you off and the next second I can get a call where there are shots fired, or there’s a stabbing, someone’s breaking into a house, there’s a fight in progress…That’s when your adrenaline starts pumping…and that’s when everything else becomes secondary.” Morales makes a note of the fact that students are focused more on their school work, than safety, and he is proud to be the person to watch their back. Recently, Morales caught the car GPS thief in the act and arrested him. “we got a bad guy off the street, we got somebody back their property, and we haven’t had one happen since…” and that is the goal that he works towards every day.

Beyond the arrests, escort service, and loud party calls, Morales looks fondly on the essentials of the job of a Police Officer, especially on a college campus. “The gratitude I get from someone saying, ‘hey, thanks for helping me’…if someone is on crutches…bring their book bag or suitcase or whatever…go that extra mile”, Morales instructs, “People will forget your name, but they will never forget the act of kindness.”

As the night wound on, my unease about sitting in the back of a cop car, and perhaps the Officer’s unease about hosting a journalist in their cop car, seemed to dissipate, revealing some TUPD secrets.

The conversation started on the topic of parties. “It’s between DU and 123,” Colon confidently asserted. “It’s hard to tell,” Corporal Regan cautioned, “we’re not really invited.” Even though they’re not in attendance, the parties are still “extremely entertaining,” especially with regards to the themes. “There was one that was a rubics cube—everybody came with a different color clothes on, and by the end you have to come out with one color. At the beginning we talked with some of the students, it seemed like a good idea.” He continued, “The kids, they’re funny, ‘cause they’re drunk. They don’t know what they’re doing. They don’t even realize the police are in the area. You can catch them doing stupid things—funny—but stupid.” I was curious if that seemed a little unfair, a little less exciting. A thoughtful “no” answered my question.

Corporal Regan also had some advice for students who practice certain campus traditions involving pumpkins and buildings around this time of year. “There was a time when…all of a sudden the sunlight came up and you were like ‘where’d all these pumpkins come from?’ They [students] used to be sneaky about it, now they’re not…we catch them all the time,” he said with the tone a mother takes when she can’t believe her child lost his lunch box for the third time this week. “They’re not really elusive anymore. They fell down on the job [no pun intended]…They’ve let me down, the students.”

At other times, it’s the houses that let the neighbors down. With the high student turnover rate in off-campus houses, it’s tough work for residents to keep track of the addresses of the infamous 3 a.m. rage-ers. “The [student’s] who lived there move out, new students move in, but the house still has the name,” Pugliares explains. “What happens is residents see four or five students go into the building, the call goes out that there’s a big party going on, well, they live there. There’s no party going on.” College Ave. has also quieted down. “College Ave here used to be incredible, it was like every weekend it was all lit up with parties.”

“Fridays and Saturdays we get hammered sometimes,” Colon says not of TUPD’s party habits but rather work obligations. While the evening’s events led us not to a bike thief, club ATO or on a high speed car chase (which, I learned, is against TUPD policy), the night still felt important and alive. As the night wound down, par for students who find themselves late at night in the back of a police car, I found myself being questioned. “What stories have you heard about us?” rang in my ears as Corporal Regan and Colon drove off into the unpredictable night that had taken a firm hold on the Hill.