Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

UAPD: A Day in the Life

UAPD: A Day in the Life

“I enjoy the helping aspect of criminal justice more than taking someone to jail,” Atkins said. “As a police officer, you put on many faces, including counselor, father figure and so on. It can be very rewarding.”

Law enforcement runs in Atkins’ family, and eventually prompted him to join the force. After completing police academy training, Atkins joined the police force of his hometown in Montgomery.

“I worked in Montgomery for three and a half years and my dad was a sergeant for 20 years in Montgomery as well,” Atkins said. “Up there you’re in and out of housing projects, you have a bigger district to patrol and it’s just a different experience.”

Atkins thought it was time for a change and decided to move to Tuscaloosa to become a member of the UAPD force.

“I came here in October 2013, and it’s 100 percent better,” Atkins said. “I basically patrol a four-mile bubble around campus and in areas we call fringe areas, or high population areas, such as the Strip. I’ve responded to calls ranging from drugs busts to hit and runs.”

Although Atkins joined a new police department, much of his job remains the same, except for whom he 
is serving.

“The demographic is different here,” Atkins said. “The majority of people are here to get an education. It’s a much more controlled environment, but that being said, every day is still 
constantly changing.”

Criminal justice professor Douglas Klutz said university police departments, such as UAPD, are distinct from other police departments because of who they serve.

“UAPD is unique in that it serves a law enforcement function to a university and campus community as opposed to a city and county environment like city police and county sheriff’s departments traditionally do,” Klutz said.

As Atkins drives down University Boulevard, he notices a pickup truck with green headlights. He pulls alongside the driver and rolls down his window to inform him of the violation.

“In Alabama, you are only allowed clear and amber front headlights,” he said to the driver. No ticket for that driver today, not even a stop — just a friendly reminder.

“I try to deal with people in a professional manner and show them respect,” Atkins said. “It’s an understanding and state of mind of officer safety first, with a level of professionalism and respect.”

Atkins takes safety seriously. Across the U.S., nine police officers have died in the line of duty this month.

“Complacency kills in law enforcement,” Atkins said. “You have to always remain aware and know where you are. There is not a textbook that will teach you how to deal with every single example because they are all different.”

UAPD currently issues standard Glock .40 caliber pistols to its officers. They are also required to bring 2 extra magazines, 2 sets of handcuffs, 1 set of plastic gloves, pepper spray, a radio and a microphone pack, as well as wear a bulletproof vest.

“I’ve never discharged my weapon in the line of duty, but I have had to draw my weapon,” Atkins said. “I don’t think I know an officer who hasn’t drawn their weapon.”

Atkins said the majority of crime on campus is theft of property.

“The call for service we get most is for theft, whether it be an iPhone, iPad or a bike,” Atkins said. “People don’t realize that some people are not honest with the police. But, for all we know, there could be someone in Tuscaloosa who wants to kill us, so when you respond to a call you always have to remain aware.”

Recently, police officers across the nation have faced criticism for the way they have handled situations. Atkins said it is important to remember why police officers are out on duty in the first place.

“I’ve never met anyone in law enforcement who has any ill will towards people,” Atkins said. “Our job is not to come out here and pick on people. Instead, we come out here to protect people. I’ve made mistakes, but I don’t let my feelings dictate how I act.”

Diamond Forde, a first-year graduate student, believes UAPD responds quickly when they need to act.

“I haven’t had a lot of interaction with the police department here, but I appreciate the emergency system where I get everything on my email and phone, and I get that really quickly,” she said. “I don’t really have any problems with the police and I feel safe with them on campus.”

Atkins said being a university police officer also requires discretion, especially when it comes to dealing with young adults.

”I don’t regret any of the arrests I’ve made,” Atkins said. “You as an individual did what you did and you have to live with that. But, I also have to use discretion and I realize a lot of the kids out here are away from home for the first time. We are trying to put you in a safer position. We are not after you.”

Atkins said there are times when his job is more rewarding than ever, when he’s able to help people improve their lives and fix their problems.

“We’ve taken people for public intoxication, and they will come up to me later and thank me for getting them into a program,” Atkins said. “The person that made that mistake is aware and tries to fix it for him or herself, and that is very rewarding for me.”

As for Atkins, he said his shift can be lonely at times.

“It can be lonesome sometimes, but people are funny though,” Atkins said. “All of our computers have Wi-Fi and I even play some Pandora music too so I can keep myself occupied. The moment you think it’s a quiet night though, something happens. There are some things you don’t say in the police force because you can jinx yourself. You don’t ever say it’s going to be a quiet night.”

Once Atkins’ shift is over, he returns home and feels humbled about his job.

“I’m not stuck in an office all day,” Atkins said. “Instead, I get to be out in the community. When I get home at the end of the day and take these boots off, I’m back to being Chance. If you can’t disconnect, the stress will load up on you. I don’t wear this badge and gun for the glory, I wear this because the people of the University of Alabama, and the people in this community, have entrusted me to uphold the law. If you see a police officer, don’t hesitate to say hello to one of us. People forget that we are just like anybody else.”

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