Two medical calls and two runs to the hospital: A night on duty with Officer Line
It’s close to 10 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 29, and UMD Police Officer Rhonada Line has just started her shift. The UMD Police Department has accepted my request to join Officer Line for a ride-along. For Officer Line this is just another day at work. It’s her 16th school year working for the UMD Police Department.
At 10:03 p.m., before Officer Line is even logged on to the squad computer, the red and blues are on and we are headed to a medical call in UMD Housing. A student is feeling sick and the paramedics need a UMD officer to unlock the gates leading to the student’s building.
Officer Charles Martin meets us at the scene, explaining to Officer Line that he got sidetracked on the way to the building.
“There is a report on a homeless person wandering the building,” Officer Martin says.
The sick student is safely placed on a stretcher, but is awake and talking. However, they need medical attention and is transported to a local hospital via an ambulance. Officer Martin leaves to answer the call about the possible homeless person.
Officer Line calls the student’s parents around 10:20 p.m., and after making sure the paramedics have all they need, Officer Line moves on to the next call: assessing the situation with the possible homeless person. Officer Martin is already at the scene in Lake Superior Hall, talking to the individual, who does turn out to be homeless. According to witnesses, the person was wandering the halls, knocking on doors and talking to residents prior to someone making a 911 call.
After checking the person’s file, Officer Martin finds that the identified party has a warrant out for their arrest for trespassing at a different location about a year ago. The individual admits to having received a ticket for trespassing, but says that they can’t remember what happened to it. While Officer Martin could arrest the individual, he says that he is willing to work with them.
“Do you have anywhere safe you can go tonight?” Officer Martin asks the individual.
While Officer Martin is working out a solution, Officer Line goes back to the squad car to fill out another trespassing warrant, this time for UMD Housing and Residence Life, restricting the person from visiting the premises for one year.
“Do you get a lot of homeless people on campus?” I ask. “Yes, always. It’s a big problem,” Line says.
A few minutes later, Officer Martin comes outside with the individual, explaining to Officer Line that they want to be taken to a local hospital due to a previously diagnosed bipolar disorder and no current medication.
Officer Line transports the individual to a Duluth hospital, making sure they are safe and the hospital has all the information needed before leaving. After finishing notes on the incident, Officer Line pulls the squad car out of the hospital parking lot and heads towards campus again. Officer stops at a gas station for coffee at around 11:30 p.m.
“How do you take your coffee?” I ask when Officer Line returns to the squad car. “Well, if they had any,” Officer Line says, chuckling that she at least got some cream. “Now, let’s go to a party,” she says, turning the car towards a neighborhood close to campus.
Driving around the neighborhood, there is no sign of disturbance or loud music. After a few minutes, Officer Line says that there is a big crowd of people headed down Arrowhead Road, probably trying to find another party. We swing by another gas station to see if they have any coffee.
“Not the best coffee, but it’s coffee,” Officer Line says when she is back in the car.
It’s close to midnight and we head towards campus again, answering another medical call. This time, a student had too much to drink and is passed out in a campus apartment bathroom with several other students making sure the person is safe while waiting for medical personnel. Officer Line gets the students’ information and makes sure that the unconscious individual is transferred safely to a hospital. By the time the paramedics have arrived, the student is awake and responding.
“Now I have to call their parents and put in more notes,” Officer Line says, heading out to the squad car again.
When notes are finished, we head towards another on-campus living unit to assess Sergeant Mike Brostrom in another incident. A student is sitting on the curbside. Sergeant Brostrom says that the student was walking with another person and turned around and waved to his car, yelling for help. The other person left, and the individual sitting on the curb is explaining to Sergeant Brostrom how they feel.
Officer Line pulls out a breathalyzer test which turns out to be positive. After further talking to the student, Sergeant Brostrom agrees with them that they should go to a local hospital for a mental health assessment. Sergeant Brostrom guides the individual to Officer Line’s squad car and we are on our way to a Duluth hospital again.
Having made sure the student is safe, we leave the hospital around 12:55 a.m. I ask Officer Line why she wanted to become an officer.
“Ever since I was little, when we moved into a new house, our neighbor’s brother was a state trooper for the state of Wisconsin,” Officer Line says. “He had a big hat and a shiny uniform. I used to sit in his lap while he had his coffee and he’d tell me stories and I thought it sounded fun.”
It seems like things have quieted down outside and we have time to head up to UMD’s Natural Resource Research Institute (NRRI) in Hermantown. Our duty is to check that everything is safe and locked down. I ask Officer Line what her favorite part of being an officer is.
“Helping people help themselves,” Officer Line says. “Trying to give us the human side of being police officers. Some think that we’re just robots that don’t have families or have fun.”
We head back towards campus, making a few loops to see if anybody is passed out anywhere. Officer Line says that they typically do it every night, but even more often in the winter.
“We have saved quite a few people from freezing to death,” Officer Line says.
At 1:55 a.m. we head to a gas station near campus to assist the Duluth Police Department in a traffic stop. A DPD Officer is having the individual take a sobriety test. The person is arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence. The police officers makes arrangements for the car to be taken by family or friends.
It’s past 2 a.m. and we head back towards the UMD Police Station, ending the ride-along for the night. Officer Line still has another five hours in the squad car. She says she has no calls at the moment, but that she almost always stumbles upon something. I ask Officer Line what she thinks is most important about being an officer.
Keeping people safe and making them feel safe,” Officer Line says. “Try to get past the barrier that we are not the bad guys, we’re the good guys.”
Anyone who is interested in doing a ride-along with a UMD Police Officer can request one here.