2007: Saturday at the Zoo - 9/27/2007
Saturday at the zoo
By: Tucker Merrick. He is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at email@example.com.
I stumbled upon this really captivating show last Saturday night. At first I thought it was a Pacific Blue rerun. Remember that Baywatch knockoff where bike-cops on the beach chase down and flying-dive-tackle criminals off their bikes? Yeah, that show actually went on for five seasons, and I could have sworn I was watching one of the later episodes where Mario Lopez joined the cast and things got really hot. Of course, that was until I realized the officer I saw wasn't Mario Lopez.
Following that revelation, I looked around and remembered I wasn't in my room watching television, but rather standing on the corner of Hobart and North Pleasant St. watching the Amherst Police Department in high gear.
The police were out in full last weekend, exhibiting a Lance Armstrong-like determination to put the brakes on student debauchery. In the span of 25 minutes and two streets, I saw at least nine students get arrested. The police - for the most part - were just waiting in the shadows of one shamefully large party, snatching up unsuspecting alcohol abusers on the fringes. It was the predator stalking its prey, like what you see on the Discovery Channel, where the lion waits in the brush looking to pick off the stumbling antelope. In this scene, there were antelopes aplenty. At one point, I saw a cop confront three young men, all of whom suddenly scattered - two got away.
Approaching one of the officers, I asked him about the seemingly benign police response, and he informed me that they weren't breaking up the big parties, but rather just eliciting justice on the side. At first this seemed cowardly to me, but then I actually took a good look toward the party, which was out of control. Students had massed outside of the house, were drinking freely, and who knows what would have happened if the police had gone up and knocked on the front door. Remember how Mufasa died?
Police are stuck in a difficult situation. Even if they don't necessarily agree with a particular law, officers are obligated to uphold it. If someone under 21 is drinking, or a person is drunk in public, then a cop is duty-bound to arrest them. But with this truth, it must also be observed as to how jaded the system has become. Drinking has turned into this perceived problem that police can do very little about.
It's actually coming down to situations like I observed on Saturday, where cops are gazing across the street at the herd of students, merely performing crowd control. They stand there in an uneasy peace, watching as students force fun down their throats while grazing around the various watering holes. Only when a member of the herd strays does the officer wheel into action.
I could go on from here and rant about the drinking age and police misconduct - which is rampant. I mean, I certainly question how many arrested students were just victims of societal circumstance. How many were affronted by the police, who came skidding to a stop and began yelling in the legally-ignorant student's face, just waiting for them to make a mistake? How about those three kids that ran - do you think they had any idea that by fleeing from a police officer, it gave that officer every right to legally search and arrest them?
Like I said, I could go on, but then again, many of the people I saw on Saturday were just being dumb. Not to say they deserved it, but illegally gathering in a crowd of drunks right in front of police is pretty stupid and obnoxious by any measure. Furthermore, anyone who is carrying an open container down Hobart is just asking to do some scene-work with the old cast of Pacific Blue. Forget about changing the drinking laws - students need to not only learn some limits, but also know their rights, and how amoebic they can be in the face of authority.
I can see where the bike-tackling is coming from. If it were me and people were basically laughing in the face of my authority, what would I do? I'd find a way to release all of that pent-up frustration. I am sure some Amherst cop was sitting on his couch with Dorito-stains down his wife-beater at three in the morning when the intro to Pacific Blue came on, and so did a light bulb in his head. I can see him now, suddenly sitting upright and calling up Trek, only to find that they weren't open.
I mean, what better way to vent then initiating a little game of cat-and- mouse, arresting various unlucky students with gear-shifting grit and strong calf muscles? Nothing brings me more contentment - especially when it's ending in an airborne take-down.
Tucker Merrick is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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