Letter to the editor: Ames officers have lost their focus of protection and service

Trevor Brown

There is no beating around the bush.

Iowa State University, like many other universities, has a

Campustown area frequented by students on evenings and weekends to

partake in drinking activities. This comes as no surprise to anyone

familiar with Ames, and more particularly the Welch Avenue


Anyone who reads the police blotter

on a regular basis knows that public intoxication and operating

while intoxicated charges are among the two most issued citations

by police in Ames. I argue that many officers in Ames have become

caught up in confronting the drinking in Campustown that officers

have shunned their primary reason for being employed: to protect

and serve.

The ISU Department of Public Safety

website clearly shows the promoting of a violence-free campus and

ensuring the safety of Iowa State students. This is their is

primary role. It is my belief that a majority of our campus police

force either is not aware of this policy, chooses to no longer

abide by their own policies or simply twists the protecting of

students to their convenience.

Officers go out and shoot fish in a

barrel on the weekends.

They have a selection from any

number of people walking along the sidewalk to choose from who

would arguably be displaying signs of intoxication. Legally,

walking home intoxicated in Ames has become no less risky than

driving. It simply carries a lesser penalty. Additionally, because

of how Iowa’s public intoxication law is worded, a public

intoxication arrest results in a harder time getting out of the

charges, because it is a discretion-based charge. Trials of public

intoxication end up being trials of credibility, or their word

versus ours.

So by what standards do police

officers decide to make an arrest?

A DPS officer will tell you visible

signs of impairment beyond what their discretion tells them is

safe. I would argue that whether or not you are released after you

have been stopped depends on whether or not you have been ‘good’

for the officer.

Police officers generally do not

like it when you exercise your rights. Which rights? The right not

to submit to a chemical test, the right not to be searched without

a warrant, the right not to answer any of the police officer’s

questions. That’s right. These are your RIGHTS as an American

citizens, and it cannot be held against you in court.

Unfortunately, however, it is often

used against you in the field. An example of this comes from my

experience. An officer asked me to consent to a preliminary breath

test, which I refused. The officer’s response was, “Then I have no

choice but to arrest you for public intoxication.” After three

months in court and thousands of dollars I was found ‘Not


It’s unfortunate how many resources

are required to defend yourself against the state. Especially when

students cannot even get representation from Student Legal Services

in cases against ISU DPS due to a conflict of interest. Therefore a

student is left with three options: take your luck with court

appointed council, privately retain a lawyer or defend yourself Pro


The first option usually results in

a plea agreement. The second will run you from $150-$250/hour. The

third is discouraged by just about everybody (that’s why there’s

the Fifth Amendment after all).

This is an issue that requires

attention. Many arrests made are not, in fact, arrests in the

interest of safety, but arrests for the sake of making arrests.

When and why did it become okay for an organization that was put in

place to help students use their powers against students? And don’t

even get me started on the parking division…