by Melissa Brookman
Years of unexpected incidents on campus have resulted in confusion for some students and delightful stories for the officers who work in Public Safety at University of Northwestern – St. Paul.
Richard Roos, a public safety line officer, has been patrolling the campus and keeping students safe for years. Roos said, “I’ve been working here since 1982.” In the late 1980s, he recalled an incident where he had found a small Volkswagen parked horizontally in two parking spaces. He issued a ticket for the oddly parked vehicle. Roos said that he had also started the appeal process for traffic violations to give students a chance to explain their actions and possibly redeem themselves.
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The owner of the vehicle appeared for her appeal and explained that she had parked correctly in a single parking space.
Roos said, “She honestly believed with all her heart that the wind must have been so strong that it blew her car sideways.” At the time of the hearing, Roos said that he denied her appeal with a big smiley face. He thought there was no way the wind could have moved the entire car and she must have not been truthful.
A brief time later, several football players admitted that they had snuck out to the parking lot and picked up her car and turned it sideways. Public safety contacted the owner and granted her appeal since she clearly was not at fault.
Roos recalled another unusual situation in the early 1990s on Lake Johanna. A man and his black Labrador had been cruising the lake in a boat, and the man was suspected of being inebriated. He had managed to steer the boat into a continuous circle. Suddenly, the man fell out of the boat. To avoid getting hit when the boat came back around, he swam to shore, leaving the defenseless dog to continue circling in the water. The dog, dizzy with excitement, was finally rescued after the boat ran out of gas and a good Samaritan towed the boat back to shore with his personal watercraft.
In 2012, Brian Scherrer, office coordinator of public safety, witnessed a situation that took a long time to remedy. Scherrer said, “One snowy day, a large Metro Mobility van was en route to pick up a dining hall worker at the Billy Graham Community Life Commons. The van arrived earlier than expected and the worker was not in sight. As a result, the driver decided to continue down the road to come back around.”
However, the driver made an immediate left turn just passed the Billy in between Nazareth Hall. The driver thought the snow was covering the road and drove up into the center of campus. Realizing his mistake, he knew the van was too large to back up safely in the snow. He pressed on forward and spent the next 30 minutes trying to maneuver his way along the path that circles the campus green, passing Riley and Totino and finally ending up near Nazareth Hall.
Scherrer commented, “There was nothing anyone could do to help the driver. The pathway is only big enough for a golf cart and a few students, not nearly wide enough for a large Metro Mobility van to maneuver. We just sat and laughed for 30 minutes while he forged a path.”
Scherrer mentioned another unusual sight in 2013. A large storm had knocked down branches and debris all over campus. It was during the summer, so crews collected all the foliage and deposited it into the large commuter parking lot that sits across from Riley Hall. Since there was no rush for the campus workers to clean up the mess due to summer break, some mice and other rodents made the pile of trees their new home. Scherrer said there were several foxes that camped out on the retaining wall for about a month, hunting mice.
Peter Sola, director of public safety, had to investigate a situation in the winter of 2015, involving several cars and a canoe. He watched security footage of a canoe being lifted off the canoe rack by a massive gust of wind. Sola said, “The canoe traveled about 50 feet uphill and then launched over several cars and on top of their roofs before finally crashing to the ground.” The cars had some cosmetic damage, but if it hadn’t been for the security tapes, he wouldn’t have believed it was possible.