A night on duty with the UMD Police Department
It is a cold winter night in Duluth. The date is Feb. 2 and the temperature is about five degrees fahrenheit and it is lightly snowing. It is close to 10 p.m. and Officer Sam Roseth is walking out of the UMD Police Department (UMDPD) office in the Darland Administration building to meet me outside for a ride-along on the UMD campus and surrounding area. She has already been on duty since 4 p.m. and has spent time at a basketball game. She has even chased down a runaway on campus.
“I spent about two hours chasing down a juvenile that was upset and had left his parent,” Roseth says. “His dad ended up finding him and he was fine.”
We get in the squad car. Roseth starts the computer and looks through the list of current events.
“Let’s see what we can find tonight,” Roseth says. “It may be quiet because of the cold weather.”
As the calls on the list are being taken care of by other squad cars, we start the night by driving around campus. Roseth looks frequently at the computer while circling around parking lots and roads commonly traveled at UMD. She explains that she is paying attention to what the Duluth Police Department (DPD) is doing next to campus.
“They got the DWI patrol on this weekend, and sometimes they may need extra help,” Roseth says. “Often, if a person is stopped by the DWI patrol, they may be drunk, upset and could be likely to run away or cause disturbance. Therefore we assist the squad by being there when they do testing of the person.”
We continue circling campus. UMD Officer Aaron Johnson is also on duty tonight, and we see his squad car every once in awhile. The UMDPD recently hired two new officers and is looking to hire another one soon.
“Josh Neumann and Sean Jones are our new officers,” Roseth says. “Officer Neumann is right out of college and Officer Jones has spent years in the St. Paul area.”
Around 10:20 p.m., Roseth suddenly speeds up a little as we go around the uphill turn on Junction Avenue headed towards College Street. After having finished the turn, Roseth starts the blue and red lights and pulls the car in front of us over.
“I wait for a safe space to pull someone over,” Roseth says. “Pulling someone over in that turn would be unsafe.”
The car ahead of us does not have a license plate light on, and Roseth spends some time next to the car talking to the person. A few minutes later, Roseth returns to the squad car and writes some quick notes. She has not written any ticket and calls code four on the radio, meaning she is all good.
“They most likely didn’t know that there wasn’t a light on because they can’t see it when they’re driving, so they’re good,” Roseth says. “This person has been stopped for texting and driving before though, so if I pull someone over for something they’ve done before I’m more inclined to give a ticket.”
Roseth realizes that the traffic stop camera is still on, and turns it off while explaining why they are important.
“It’s important if someone is arrested,” Roseth says. “If they sit in the back of my squad and talks, even when we tell them that they don’t have to, we have it on tape.”
We continue circling campus, driving over Griggs Beach to keep an eye on the residence halls. Over the past few weeks, one section of the residence halls has had an increased occurrence of marijuana.
“We also do checks around buildings in case anybody is locked out, especially in this temperature,” Roseth says.
It is close to 11 p.m. The temperature is now at three degrees fahrenheit and snowflakes are still falling down from the night sky. Roseth grew up in Duluth, and is used to the cold weather. She finished a bachelor in sociology and criminology with a minor in psychology at UMD in 2012 before she did basic training and cop school. Then, she was hired by UMDPD in early 2015.
“In five days, I’ll have my three year anniversary with the UMDPD,” Roseth says. “I had a break a few years ago when I was in South Korea in the Air National Guard. I lived in a dorm while I was over there, so it’s good to be home again.”
Roseth says that she has enjoyed her years as an officer for UMDPD. There is enough happening, but it is not as crazy as the Twin Cities would be.
“Our supervisors are great and we work as a team,” Roseth says. “And I got to hang out at a UMD basketball game today!”
At 11:12 p.m., we hurry over to the Chester Bowl area to look for suspicious activity following a call about the sound of eight shots. Together with a squad from DPD, we circle around the area, check the entrance to the park, and ask a few nightwalkers for any information. We find nothing, only a locked off park. Everything seems to be like it should be.
“It could be fireworks,” Roseth says. “The sound of fireworks can sound like gunshots to some people.”
After having made sure there is no suspicious activity, we head back towards campus. Once we have made it over to Arrowhead Road, Roseth pulls over a driver that is speeding.
“It’s 30 here, and they’re going 39,” Roseth says. “Plus, in this weather it’s even more dangerous.”
Roseth makes contact with the driver once they are stopped. After a few seconds, she receives a gun from the driver that she puts on the roof of the person’s car for the remaining time of the traffic stop. Once Roseth is finished with the stop, she lets the person go and heads back to the squad car without giving a ticket.
“They told me right away that they had a concealed carry,” Roseth says. “They cooperated well.”
It is 11:42 p.m., and just as we are about to head back to campus, a call about possible domestic assault, just half a block from where we are located, pops up on the computer. Roseth decides to take on the call and heads to the house where a DPD squad is already at place. Shortly after arriving, another call about a disturbance in one of the UMD apartments shows up on the screen and requires Roseth’s attention.
Because the possible assault is not currently happening and nobody is in danger at the moment, the DPD squad will wait for another car to show up, and Roseth heads to UMD. We arrive at a UMD apartment building around midnight.
“We got a call about a student causing disturbance and breaking things in the room,” Roseth says. “The student has locked out their roommates of the apartment.”
We walk into the building where we meet two RAs. We get a short description of what is happening from one of the roomates. Officer Johnson has arrived as well, and together they enter the room to talk to the student.
The student is intoxicated and the two officers decide to take them to the hospital for detox. Johnson takes the student in his squad car. This call seemed to be straight forward, but Roseth explains that sometimes she doesn’t know what a call like that could turn out to be.
“All we have is the call, and at times they are vague,” Roseth says. “First thought is always ‘is anyone in danger?’ and ‘do we need medical attention?’”
Roseth explains that she has had some calls that could have turned out to be unsafe for herself.
“I once responded to a call about a student that had crashed into a bike rack,” Roseth says. “I found him in his apartment, and he had the ‘I wanna fight’ look.”
Roseth explains that she tried to calm the student down by telling him that he was going to be OK, rather than telling him that he was going to get a DUI.
“I thought this might have been danger, but you just got to try to turn the situation and calm them down,” Roseth says. “You want to make sure your mind is in it. Trust that your partners have your back.”
Roseth checks the computer for the report from the possible assault from earlier. It turns out that it was an incident with alcohol involved, but the residents are safe and that nobody felt like they were in danger after the event.
It is close to 1 a.m. and we circle around campus again. The ride-along is almost over, but Roseth still has three hours left on the clock. Her shift today has been mostly quiet, but 12-hour shifts can be both slow and busy depending on the day. Roseth tells me about one of her favorite moments after a long day.
“It was a summer day and I had a bunch of calls all day, so I wasn’t able to eat until I was done,” Roseth says. “So I went to Erbert and Gerbert’s, and there was this little three year old who were just so excited to see me. That made my day after a rough shift.”
Roseth says that she met the little girl’s mom a few days after.
“She told me that the girl had been talking about the meet for days after it happened,” Roseth says, smiling while thinking about it.
After a calm last hour, we head back to the office. The snow has almost stopped and the air is still. Roseth kindly takes time to brush off my car before heading out on the road again.
“Thanks for riding along,” Roseth says and waves farewell, driving into the dark February night to continue to help civilians.
A request form for a ride-along with the UMDPD can be found here.