Working the campus graveyard shift

Working the campus graveyard shift

The midnight shift is a long one for a campus police officer – it starts at 10:30 p.m. and lasts until 6:30 a.m.

Officer George Steen, who worked for the Fort Worth Police Department for 25 years and started as a university police officer in February, said the midnight shift is generally reserved for rookies who have to work their way up the ladder.

“One night I was working and I looked at (my partner) and said, ‘It’s 5:00 a.m., we’re on South University, we’re working midnights. Is it 1981?'” Steen said, referencing his days as a rookie with the FWPD.

Steen responded to several calls the Thursday before Halloween, ranging in severity from a student leaving her valuables in a lecture hall to tending to an intoxicated student who had to be transported to the hospital.

MedStar Emergency Medical Services took the intoxicated student to a hospital after she fell and suffered a deep cut to her knee. The student was dressed as a police officer for Halloween and sat on the ground in pain until emergency medical technicians put her on a stretcher.

Steen said campus police officers work to protect students’ health and safety, rather than having a “search and destroy” agenda.

In another incident outside of Sherley Hall, students called police to make sure their intoxicated friend did not have alcohol poisoning after she threw up repeatedly in the back seat of a car.

Nicolette Avner, hall director for Samuelson-Carter Hall, was on duty Oct. 29 and came out to tend each of the two calls.

“This is my first Halloween being on duty, so I’m not quite sure what to expect,” Avner said. “I hope students will have fun, but will have fun in a safe and responsible way.”

The last call that involved an intoxicated student that night involved three students who boarded the bus from the overflow parking lot to west campus. The students bombarded the bus driver with obscenities and were kicked off, Steen said.

The bus driver put in a call to police, who chased down two of three students. The students received alcohol violations but no tickets.

Steen said the officers could have issued tickets to the students, but the university tries to handle things internally to avoid putting a black mark on the students’ records.

“What Fort Worth PD does is criminal. What we do is more or less administrative,” Steen said. “It’s a violation against the university for students to drink alcohol underage. Instead of filing the charges through the municipal court, you’ll go to Campus Life and see the dean, and it’s taken care of that way.”

Regular duties each night for Steen include driving by Chancellor Victor Boschini’s house to make sure it is safe, patrolling parking lots and finally, when the shift draws to end, unlocking doors at buildings around campus.

Even though he has worked midnight shifts before, Steen said it is still a challenge more than 25 years later to stay awake all night. He said he drinks coffee and works out during his “lunch” break to keep his body alert.

At 11:30 p.m., before any of the calls to check on students, Steen made a trip to 7-Eleven for coffee, where two other officers were pouring themselves a cup. Steen said the person who works the 7-Eleven night shift lets officers make their own coffee because they frequent the store.

“I just try to make the night (pass) by trying to stay busy,” Steen said. “(I) keep my mind busy by getting out and patrolling and checking buildings.”

The weekend was going to be even longer for Steen and other officers working the night shift. He was scheduled to a arrive at 2 p.m. Saturday to work the football game against UNLV and then he would work all night until 6:30 a.m.