On the night of Friday, April 17, at 23:00, I reported to the Department of Public Safety office to ride along with DPS officer Jim Riccaboni on a night shift patrol.
By 23:20, about two hours into Riccaboni's shift, we got into his squad car ready to continue the patrol: starting mileage 85,386, fuel tank three-fourths full.
Riccaboni said he has held the same position as a patrolling officer since the day he started his career with DPS four and a half years ago.
On this particular night, Riccaboni was assigned to be the officer on "free patrol," which meant we weren't restricted to patrolling just one area of campus.
"Currently, we patrol in sectors and individual officers are assigned to these different sectors," Riccaboni said.
This method of patrolling, he said, has proven to help deter crime on campus.
"Because one car is always in a small single area, it allows us to keep a constant presence," Riccaboni said. "This constant presence is our biggest crime deterrent."
s23:35 – Customer service
The first interaction Riccaboni and I had with the student population on patrol came when Riccaboni used the spotlight on his squad car to help a student find an accidentally dropped cigar in the bushes near the student's apartment building.
"Customer service is just one aspect of our job," Riccaboni said as we drove away. "It's little things like that, that go a long way in building the relationship we have with students and the community."
00:15 – Stairwell check
It was a little past midnight when Riccaboni and I stepped out of the squad car to perform a routine stairwell check in Parking Structure 2. At this point in the night, the activity on campus was still extremely quiet.
"For the past 12 to 18 months, the crime on campus has been down a lot," Riccaboni said as we made our way up and down the stairwells.
He attributed this decrease in crime to an array of factors, which include an increase in DPS's visibility, their use of full manpower and an increase in the number of cameras and blue-light phones on campus. There's also been a decrease in overall crime in the city of Milwaukee during this time.
"The university stands behind our department 150 percent," Riccaboni said. "They appreciate the importance of a safe campus, and they provide us with the top-of-the-line training, tools, equipment and resources we need to do our job as efficiently and effectively as possible."
00:50 – Educators outside of the classroom
Just before 1 a.m., Riccaboni and I were patrolling through an alley just outside of campus when we came across a 23-year-old male student who was urinating on the side of a building.
When Riccaboni used his spotlight to get the student's attention, the student looked back at the squad car and began to run in the opposite direction.
Riccaboni slowly circled the block and eventually found the out-of-breath student on the next street.
At first, the student tried to deny his public urination violation.
"You're out of breath because you were obviously just running," Riccaboni said to the student. "And look at your fly. It's still open. I just want you to tell me the truth."
After the student admitted that he had been urinating on the building, Riccaboni explained that he wanted the mistake to be a learning experience for the student.
"If I was MPD, that urination would have cost you a $200 ticket, and running away from me would have only made things a lot worse," Riccaboni said to the student.
Before the student was sent on his way, he apologized and thanked Riccaboni for doing him a favor.
"Thank you, sir. I won't give you a problem for the rest of the night…the rest of the year actually," the student said.
Because all DPS officers were in college at one point in time, they all understand what college life is like, Riccaboni said.
"If kids want to blow off some steam on the weekends, we understand that. As long as they're smart about it we usually don't have problems," Riccaboni said. "Another part of our job is being educators outside of the classroom."