The police aren’t necessarily a welcome sight at a party, but when University of Alberta Protective Services enter a residence bash, it’s the not the scene you might think. While they’re there to enforce rules, they also remain a friendly and reliable source of protection for students. Whether patrolling buildings, keeping an eye out for unsavoury characters or rushing to the aid of beleaguered students, these officers make it their duty to protect and serve members of the U of A campus.
Treating every situation with the utmost importance — whether in the midst of an actual crisis or simply responding to a call for help from a student residence — they form an integral and unique part of the campus community.
We hear about UAPS all the time. We see them on campus, we feel their presence and yet we know little about how they actually operate. In the interest of learning more about the experiences of UAPS officers in a typical night on campus, the news crew has been invited on a ride-along — a six-hour venture into the unknown with two Protective Services officers.
We buzz into the UAPS office, where we’re met by the officers taking us on the ride. Daniel Lauzon, a community peace officer, is accompanied by Kayla Gardiner, a recruit. Lauzon has been with UAPS roughly five years and is a Field Training Officer. Gardiner, who was recruited in May, isn’t officially under his supervision, but he’s helping her out for tonight. Their shifts switch up regularly, so they either work 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. or the other way around. After signing in, Lauzon offers us a tour.
The UAPS office is nearly hidden inside the Education car park, where officers also keep their patrol units. Beyond the front desk is a locked door that leads into a room with a broad hallway jutting off ahead. Lauzon gestures to the door on the left, noting that’s where evidence is stored.
To the immediate right is a door leading to the Dispatch office, where Acting Sergeant Daniel Tallack mans the 12 computer screens littering the room. Everything the U of A touches is monitored by Dispatch, who work closely with the U of A hospital and ETS officers to keep the peace.
Tallack says Dispatch can get crazy during the day, especially if there’s an emergency — all lines could fill up, and whoever’s on that post that day has to deal with all of them on top of calls and dispatches. In the case of an emergency like the HUB Mall incident over the summer, it becomes the centre of operations: a place for people to meet and make decisions.
We walk to one of the patrol units and Gardiner opens the trunk. Inside is a helmet, which she says is for the safety of people who get arrested if they’re out of control. There’s also a fire extinguisher, a “sharps” container to safely dispose of needles and other objects, a first-aid kit and an Automated External Defibrillator.
Gardiner walks around the car and opens one of the back doors. In the back seat of the patrol unit, plastic drains have been installed on the floor — “just in case,” she says. She reassures us the car has been cleaned.
There’s a divider between the front and back seats, and Lauzon notes the newer units also have a divider in the back between the two seats, both of which are hard, cold plastic. The front of the car has a control unit in the centre for sirens and lights, which when activated automatically turns on the in-car video system to monitor the situation. There’s also a Go-Pro book — a computer the officers can use when conducting traffic stops — so checks can be done from the car.
The officers also note the supplies in the glove compartment. First things first: a spit-mask for hostile individuals.
“We look at spit like lethal force,” Lauzon says, citing AIDS or other diseases spread through bodily fluids as a possible risk in confrontations. There’s also a pair of hobbles used to tie feet together, with a strap that links up to handcuffs.
“To be clear, we never do a thing called hog-tying,” Lauzon explains — where an individual has their arms bound behind their back, their feet tied together and then curled up behind them and tied to the arm bindings. Lauzon says hog-tying has actually led to death, whereas hobbles simply prevent a person who, for example, kicks a lot from damaging either the patrol unit or themselves.
“We also sometimes have people who are very bendy,” Lauzon admits.
Lauzon and Gardiner then spin us a story about the bendiest man in Edmonton. The way Lauzon tells it, he and another officer arrested a man, cuffing his hands behind his back and sitting him down in the back seat. They were driving away when Lauzon looked behind him and saw the man’s hands — still in cuffs — were somehow in front of him. They pulled him out of the car and re-cuffed his hands behind him, only to drive away and notice his hands were in front again.
What happened, Lauzon explains, is the man was flexible enough to slip his hands under his legs and bring them up in front — while sitting strapped in with seatbelt on. When the Edmonton Police Service arrived to pick the person up, Lauzon warned them about his ability. They strapped this guy into the back of their squad car so tight they figured he couldn’t slip out — only to have him kick the driver’s seat so hard it broke.
With Gardiner in the driver’s seat, we get ready to do our rounds. The first stop is HUB Mall, which the officers generally walk through at the beginning of their shift. Rather than actively looking for particular types of crime, the officers simply patrol the areas and deal with whatever they come across.
As we traverse the Fine Arts Building, Lauzon points out a place where people used to be caught sleeping all the time before lights were installed. With problem areas like this, Lauzon says Protective Services gets an officer to make some recommendations for change.
The tops of HUB’s stairwells are another problem area, but Lauzon says some of them have had mirrors installed so students going up or down can see what’s on the next set of stairs. HUB Mall also has a catwalk running the length of its perimeter, where one officer can patrol while the officer below keeps point.
We make our way from HUB into Tory, where Lauzon peers over the top of the stairwell first, explaining he likes to know as much as possible about a situation before proceeding. Luckily, most of the buildings on campus are designed to let officers do just that.
Close to midnight, a call goes off on the officer’s radio noting an “ABC party in 5 Henday.” We make a quick trip back to the cruiser to head over the residence immediately.
On the way there, the officers go over the details of the call. A student reported a concern with one of the night’s floor parties, worried some attendees were trying to throw items out the windows.
The patrol unit pulls up in front of Lister Centre and Gardiner kills the engine. Outside, there are a dozen or so people getting ready to head to various parties, despite the night’s cold bite. The officers pleasantly greet everyone before leading us inside.
As we go down the inside stairwell, the officers maintain a good rapport with everyone we pass, wishing them a good night and making general small talk. At the bottom of the stairs another officer who also responded to the call meets us.
We turn a corner and walk past a group of residents huddled by the elevators. Lauzon and Gardiner open the door leading into the stairwell, and a moment later meet up with the hall’s Residence Assistant, who made the call.
After speaking with the student in the stairwell, we head to the elevator and take it up to where the crowd is gathered.
The scene is filled with students: some dressed as animals or in neon attire, while a couple males roam shirtless. Laughter and chatter flows through the room as the residents mingle loudly.
Gardiner and Lauzon make their way into the common area, casually making conversation while ensuring everything is under control. Upon noticing their presence, some students disperse and watch cautiously from a distance or quickly shift their gaze away. Two students about to head into the hallway catch a glimpse of the officers’ backs and sprint the other way.
The officers ask what everyone is up to before heading over to the side of the room through a mess of garbage, shredded paper and what appears to be shattered glass or plastic on the floor to inspect whether the windows have been tampered with.
After making sure everything is secure, they pull the floor coordinator to the side, questioning him further about the situation. He claims no one had thrown anything out the windows, and says he just arrived on scene.
Upon further inspection of the floor, a tray of freshly-made jello shots are discovered in the kitchen, which are immediately dumped out by the FC into the sink. He apologizes profusely and promises to get things back under control.
After one last walk around the room, the officers head back down the stairs, peeking through the door windows from the stairwell to each floor common area to check up on students.
They enter some floors to make conversation with students about the movies they’re watching, or even the line dances groups are energetically performing.
“You come into an area and people automatically think that you’re there to respond to something,” Lauzon says later.
“Sometimes we’re either there just to make sure everything is okay or just to say hi.”
Lauzon points out the security cameras throughout the hall of Lister that can be used to review a suspect’s path in more serious instances, before we exit the building.
After a few minor incidences around campus such as redirecting students from closed-off areas, we head back to Lister around 3 a.m. to make sure the residents are still okay.
Some students that stumble through the door don’t hesitate to say hi right away.
“Where’s Officer Steve?” asks one male student. Upon telling him he’s not on duty tonight, the Lister resident expresses his
A small group of residents begin to crowd around Gardiner as they try to guess her first name. She humours them, laughing at how none of them can seem to figure it out despite her clues.
Upon finally getting it right, they all groan about their missed guesses. One student recalls how he knows her from the last time he saw her — when he was caught with open liquor in the common area — laughing all the while.
“Peace, officers!” says one of the students as they say their goodbyes and make their way back to their rooms.
It’s clear from this scene and from the students’ conversations that the officers try to establish themselves as more than just a uniform on patrol.
The hashtag “#officersteve” is painted in large letters across one of the walls of 5 Henday, showing just how much of an impact some of these officers have had on the community.
“I think the biggest part of it is the relationship he built up with them, usually through frequent patrols of the area,” explains Lauzon of the paint.
One new call directs us back up to one of the floors of Lister. The officers enter one student’s room to hold a private conversation about her concerns with one of the other residents.
After finishing the conversation, Gardiner explains how one resident, who has been known to drunkenly try to start fights, went off to a nearby pub allegedly carrying a knife. The student who made the call expressed her concern for the safety of others who might cross his path on his way back.
After getting a description of the male, we head back down to the cruiser along the street where the male was reported to be walking. After about 10 minutes, Lauzon notifies Gardiner that the suspect is heading back to Lister down 87 Avenue near the Butterdome. From the car, the student comes into plain view, and another of the patrolling sergeants approaches him outside with Lauzon while we wait in the vehicle.
The male admitted to carrying a two-inch paring knife with him, claiming he had been jumped the weekend before and wanted to carry extra protection. The officers continue to talk with him and suggest different support and resources for staying safe late at night — including their phone numbers — before escorting him back to Lister.
As our ride-along comes to a close just past 3 a.m., the officers will persist for hours longer. Twelve-hour shifts for multiple consecutive days are routine for parts of the UAPS force.
“We’ve got a good group of people, and the nice thing is you work so many hours with them … You get to know their habits and how they work,” Lauzon explains.
“Essentially, it’s like working with a really strong team.”
Every day is a new challenge, where what might occur isn’t always easy to predict. But whether it’s broad daylight or the middle of the night, UAPS is always on campus ensuring that campus is a safe place.
“No two calls are the same,” Gardiner says.
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