The police department’s focus this year is educating students on how to party safely and stay out of trouble, Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins said in a public meeting with students Thursday.
"The more we can do with education and prevention the less enforcement we have to do," Jenkins said.
Police officers from both the WSU and Pullman Police departments met with a group of about 80 students for “Behind the Badge: A View from the Other Side,” a public forum hosted by the WSU PD.
Jenkins said the beginning of the year is always a good time to meet with students and have discussion like this one.
"We're not here to spoil anyone's fun," he said.
Cpl. Dawn Daniels from the WSU Police Department said the reason she enjoys working at WSU is the students.
"You guys are students who sometimes make bad decisions," she said. "You aren't bad people."
The two beat officers assigned to College Hill, Chris Engle and Heidi Lambley, from the Pullman PD were both there as well.
Engle said his role as a beat officer, as well as his favorite part about his job, is being a liaison to students, athletes and to the Greek community.
“The majority of the time our interactions (with people) are positive,” Lambley said.
The most common crime they see is minor in possession of alcohol or minor exhibiting, Engle said.
For individuals younger than the age of 21 and who choose to drink anyway, all the officers advised to not draw attention to oneself.
"Please all stay inside," Engle said. "Don't come out to say hi to me."
Students should not have an open container of alcohol, stumble or otherwise behave in a way that would make someone assume they are intoxicated, Daniels said.
“I contact the people who draw my attention,” she said.
In Washington, there is no public intoxication law.
"In the state of Washington, it's only illegal to be drunk in public if you're under 21," Lambley said.
It is illegal in Washington, however, to have open container of alcohol in a public place. In addition, Pullman has a city ordinance against it, and an open container infraction could result in a $250 fine.
On game day, Lambley said, nothing changes. It is still illegal.
The difference between the two police departments is jurisdiction. The WSU PD's jurisdiction is any property that is owned by the university while the Pullman PD's is everything else within city limits.
However, both departments work with one another on a frequent basis, Lambley said.
Also in both departments, each individual officer is responsible for keeping the police car they use clean, including messes they do not necessarily make.
"When someone vomits, we have to clean it up," Lambley said, "and I'm one of those people who gets a lot of pukers."
Zachary Hays, chair of the WSU Police Advisory Board and assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, said he was pleased with the number of students who attended.
"There were lots of people with good questions," he said.
The goal of these forums is to humanize police officers, he said. Often times the police are not viewed as human beings, only as a uniform.
He said he hopes interactions like this one will make community members and students feel more comfortable approaching the police when they have questions.
"Students shouldn't feel scared or intimidated to ask questions or report a crime," he said.
The WSU Police Department annually sponsors six forums a year about different topics.
The next forum, “Criminal Victimization Awareness and Reporting: A Week Without Violence,” will take place Oct. 13. The third forum will be “Reality Television? The Truth Behind Crime Scene Investigation” on Nov. 17.