Ride along with university police: An eye-opening experience of kindness and accountability


When being around police, nervousness can set in. This semester, I interviewed one of the University Police Department officers, Lieutenant Christopher Shippen. 

Shippen gave me a tour of the police station and explained the roles and responsibilities of everyone there before we went on the ride along. As we were leaving, I noticed various caffeinated drinks in the lunch break room, but no donuts.

I asked Shippen, “When dealing with homeless people, how do you keep respect and dignity while enforcing the law?” 

Instead of taking enforcement or actions, Shippen said they try to help that individual and get them the resources that they need, instead of generating a paper trail because all it does is generate a court process.

From my perspective, I understand that, because I have an aunt and an uncle that are  homeless. My mom visits her from time to time and she knows who she is, but her mind isn’t all there, because of the environment she is in. 

Shippen said one misconception about UPD is that they arrest a lot of students every year. UPD only arrested two people last year. When college students are intoxicated, UPD gives them treatment, medical attention or gets them somewhere safe so they can sleep it off. 

“We will take that approach, and instead of trying to go like authoritative and try to arrest them for being drunk in public,” Shippen said.

I think people should appreciate UPD more for these kind acts of service, because the consequences can be worse. I have been around people walking home intoxicated with no help. 

What I really liked about this ride-along was Shippen, who told me how important family is and how to maintain a healthy relationship — just be aware. When you are at work, you handle your business there. When you are with your family, you spend that time with them. It can sometimes be hard  to squeeze in some self-care days, but he said do to take care of yourself mentally. 

When discussing current police brutality, such as shown in the Tyre Nichols footage, Shippen said, “Those guys weren’t real cops, and now you can see law enforcement evolving, and the scrutiny and the stressors behind it.”

The police officers should not only be accountable but also the police department should be too. Officers should not be out there patrolling with little to no experience. Where are the supervisors?

I never thought I could be a cop. Where I am from, Watts, cops aren’t seen in a positive light. However, Shippen has me considering the career path. 

Troy Johnson can be reached at [email protected].