As the sun rises behind Blankenship Hall and over Ohio State, tired police officers make their way inside, coffee in hand. Shuffling in through an empty lobby and exchanging waves and nods with the officers getting off the overnight shift, they head to a conference room for morning roll call and briefing before going out to their cruisers and hitting the road. Even on this uneventful Monday, there is still only one police officer to every 1240 students on campus, and the expectation to make sure each one is safe never wavers.
7 a.m. — Picking a ride
Officer David Ferimer walks to car number 32 in the Blankenship Hall parking lot. He walks around the car bent over, examining the cruiser. Opening the back door he looks inside to see if anything was left on the floor from a previous arrest. He finally gives up looking.
“If anything gets left from a someone before and I don’t find it, it becomes my problem,” Ferimer said.
Sliding behind the wheel, Ferimer pulls the cruiser up behind his own silver Subaru with the license plate FREAKY 3. He climbs out to retrieve a black duffel bag from the rear of the Subaru.
The bag holds everything he could possibly need on the job that day — extra handcuffs, pepper spray, paperwork for tickets. And a black umbrella speckled with brightly-colored dots.
“My wife picks these up when they’re on sale,” he admits, “so if I see someone doesn’t have an umbrella, I can give them one.”
Finally, he pulls out his police hat, adorned with a badge. The hat would normally be worn over his shaved head but today, tucked inside are Godiva chocolates and a miniature bottle of Pepto Bismol.
“You really need everything.”
10 a.m. — Lending a hand; Library patrol
Ferimer gets a call from an Upper Arlington officer who is coming to the Wexner Medical Center and heads that way to help him navigate the maze-like hospital.
“When other officers call, no question, we come.”
Ferimer is the right man to call for help with getting around the hospital. He started as a security guard at the med center 20 years ago before joining the police department. Ferimer’s wife helped him find the job, she works as a nurse there.
As Ferimer pulls up to the hospital, the large white van with “Upper Arlington Police” stamped on the side is parked in front. The hospital prefers the police park in the back so they aren’t the first thing people see.
“We’ll have to park behind, follow me,” Ferimer yells to Officer JD Hutchingson in the van.
Once parked, Ferimer leads the way to the information desk.
“A round-about they just put in is causing all types of accidents…” the UA officer explains. He was there to retrieve information on the most recent victim of this traffic upgrade. It wasn’t looking good for this man to live.
The two officers follow the twists and turns of the hospital, and the fluorescent lights shine off the top of their shaved heads.
They come up on a window with a tired-looking woman sitting at a desk on the other side. Valentine’s Day hearts still remain on the glass two weeks past the holiday.
The woman with wet looking hair and a Pandora bracelet explains that Hutchingson needs to go elsewhere to get the files he’s looking for. He just smiles and turns to leave; his shiny scalp still reflecting the yellow fluorescent light.
Ferimer apologizes on the way out for not being more help but Hutchingson shrugs him off, leaving Ferimer to go elsewhere on campus.
During slow times on his shift Ferimer visits places like Thompson Library. His goal: to be seen.
“A lot of what we do is drive around and be seen,” he said.
If people are planning on committing a crime he wants them to see him and for those who aren’t to see him and feel safe.
Ferimer takes the elevator to the fourth floor and strides through rows of studying students who give him a fleeting glance. It’s the person who gives him a double take, however, that Ferimer is seeking. These are the people who in his mind are “up to something.”
“A lot of campus policing isn’t enforcement,” Ferimer said.
Moving from floor to floor. Ferimer only talks to those who make eye contact and say hello.
After a thorough walk through the library Ferimer heads back to his cruiser.
11 a.m. — Lunch
“Always good to be the first one at Tai’s,” Ferimer says as he pulls into an open parking space in the empty parking lot, the rattling of his shotgun beside him coming to a halt with the car.
Walking up to the cash register, three IT guys from the station and one of the detectives have already ordered and are waiting for their lunch.
“OSU PD keeps this place in business,” says one detective.
Ferimer receives his order of chicken and rice and heads to a table. He insists on sitting diagonally from the others, never directly across from them, a weird quirk for which he has no explanation.
“Know where is good to eat based on where the cops go,” Ferimer chuckles as he takes a bite of rice.
Two egg rolls, free of charge, show up halfway through the meal like they always do according to Ferimer. Before plates are clean, a call to pick up a “dismissal letter” comes through Ferimer’s walkie talkie.
“316 on it.”
Noon — Dismissed from OSU
Dismissal letters are given to students for multiple reasons that can range from cheating to rape and murder.
Although most dismissals go smoothly, there is always the potential for a student to not take the news well. That’s why Ohio State officers are the ones who pick up the letters from the Ohio Union and occasionally make the special delivery.
Ferimer walks into the Union to pick up the dismissal letter from the Office of Student Life, making a quick pit stop to buy a pack of Trident spearmint gum.
“Never want to offend the offender,” he says.
As he heads out of the Union, Ferimer walks by a frail woman, standing just over 5 feet, wearing a seafoam ski hat. A white cotton pad covers her right eye. She is cloaked in multiple sweaters and a pair of heavy coats.
The woman attempts to shuttle her three bags through the Union without drawing attention to herself, but a security guard follows close behind.
“Wanna help?” the security guard asks Fermier.
“I think you can handle it,” Ferimer replies.
Ferimer thinks it is a little inhumane for the woman, clearly not a danger to anyone, to be approached by an armed officer. It would be kinder for a security guard to simply ask her to leave.
Once in the car Ferimer opens the letter to see the name of the student who will soon lose admission at Ohio State. He locates him in the Franklin County Jail.
Ferimer takes the scenic route of High Street to the jail, to admire the buildings and people. Sometimes he even spots an old friend.
“That’s a criminal right there!” Ferimer yells pointing towards a man walking down the east side of the street. “I recognize his bald head… I’ve had him numerous times, someone I’ve dealt with my whole career.”
Ferimer never forgets someone he has arrested or questioned. He may forget the name, but the second he sees them again their past offenses come racing back to him.
Amid the police radio cacophony, a familiar story comes through the speakers. A woman with an eye patch is claiming to be a Ohio State student at the Union but they can’t find her in the system.
With the jail only a block away, Ferimer starts to pry the staple out of the dismissal letter. Nothing can be given to a prisoner that could somehow be turned into a weapon. Including a single staple.
1 p.m. — From student to inmate
Tucked between the Franklin County Municipal Court and the Office of the Clerk of Courts, is the Franklin County Jail. The jail causes all to tense upon entrance, even the air was different, thick like Florida in July.
A stack of small metal containers, the size of safety-deposit boxes, greets jail visitors. Ferimer opens one and places in it his gum, pepper spray and key, and locks it with the attached key. He stands in the adjacent waiting area, adorned with a small wooden bench where three inmates sit, each three feet away from the other, staring at a grey cement.
To the left is a holding cell, which smells of urine and is covered with food from previous occupants. Although the cell is grey, remnants of orange paint peek through where people had carved words, names and dates into the walls.
A blond, bearded guard, standing 6 foot, 2 inches, is dwarfed by two prisoners he escorts to entry door, each are marked with “INMATE” across their shoulders.
“Those guys are tough,” Ferimer says of the guards. “They have to be ready to go anytime because they (the inmates) aren’t playing.”
Ferimer said jail changes inmates. Trying to get the upper-hand, they will stare down authority figures and fellow inmates alike, aiming for intimidation. They pick fights to look tough.
“Change from respectful prisoner to shoulders back, talk back, show their tattoos,” Ferimer says.
Through the room shuffles a boy in his early twenties, but already losing his hair. His tan shirt and navy pants leave no doubt why he is here. “INMATE” written on every piece of his clothing.
Just a couple feet away, Ferimer hands the inmate his letter and asks him to read it in front of him. The inmate skims through it pointing at the lines with his pudgy fingers. No emotion on his face the inmate looks up and says “I understand.”
The former Ohio State student is facing murder charges so not being able to go back to school is the least of his worries, and it shows. He tries to hand the letter back to Ferimer but he lets him keep it. After being in jail only a day, it’s the first thing the prisoner has received from the outside world.
4 p.m. — The unknown
“Just when you think you’ve seen it all something else happens.”
Officer Chuck Gierach fills the silence in the Dodge Charger police cruiser with his craziest experiences on duty.
Suicide attempts. Bath salts.
“When people are on bath salts they like to take their clothes off. I don’t understand that.”
More suicide attempts.
“Especially around midterms and finals, you’ll get a lot of people that haven’t slept for two days and they’re not taking care of themselves,” Gierach explains. “And they’re just kind of having a mental breakdown.”
Gierach hits a red light at Neil and 11th avenues and notices a smoker on campus. Even though OSU is a tobacco-free campus, Gierach explains that the officers can’t enforce the policy.
“It’s not against the law, so we don’t touch it,” he says, then chuckles. “Some people, when they see us they turn away like we’re gonna jump out at them.”
The light turns green and Gierach continues down Neil Avenue.
“The jurisdiction gets a little sketchy down here on south campus,” Gierach says as he points out buildings that are monitored by OSU police versus Columbus Police.
“We have both sides of 11th but the street itself is Columbus,” Gierach says. “The only reason I can think of is the meters.”
Gierach weaves through campus for the next 30 minutes. This August will mark Gierach’s 10th anniversary as an Ohio State officer. Originally from West Virginia, Gierach graduated from Ohio University with a degree in criminology.
“My first major was health care management or something and was like ‘wow I hate this’ and I switched to criminology.”
He doesn’t regret the switch.
“I’m happy. I like the unknown. I can’t sit behind a desk all day,” Gierach begins. “But it does kind of make me regret it when I’m out there in ten below directing traffic.”
5 p.m. — False alarm
As Gierach makes small talk about Boy Scout troops taking tours of the police station (“they love handcuffing their parents”) the dispatcher grabs his attention.
“… reporting a 10–40 to an alarm at the Neil Avenue Marketplace alarm point of sale…” the words become muffled as Gierach pushes harder on the gas and races down 11th Avenue toward the alarm’s location.
It’s a robbery alarm.
“311, I’ll respond.”
While a robbery alarm may seem like a big deal, the lights and sirens remain off.
“These alarms drive us nuts cause you get curious students every quarter. They just flick ‘em cause they don’t know what they are,” Gierach says. “They don’t give an audible alarm there, but they come into our station like all hell is breaking loose.”
“311, pulling up.”
As Gierach walks into the main doors of Marketplace, he is met by stares of several students. He walks up to the three cashiers who are unaware about the alarm.
“Did somebody hit the alarm?” he asks.
They look at each other blankly.
“I didn’t hit it. Did you hit it?” they ask each other.
Embarrassed, they apologize for the inconvenience, Gierach assures them that it’s all right, as long as everything is OK.
“No one ever admits it,” Gierach says as he heads back to his Dodge Charger.
6 p.m. — Dispatch center
Gierach returns to the station and heads to the dispatch center, a dimly lit room full monitors displaying security camera feeds all over campus.
Only two dispatchers occupy the room before Gierach enters. He walks over to a woman sitting in the back corner of the room who is too busy on her computer to notice his arrival.
Pam Murphy, the dispatcher, looks up from the screen and immediately starts talking about the robbery alarm that was just pulled with Gierach.
“We go from crazy emergencies, ya know, ‘get me a medic’ or ‘we’re being robbed’ to ‘dude, where’s my car?’” Murphy explains.
Murphy and Gierach exchange stories of civilians taking advantage of Ohio State police and abusing the system, including driving people around to look for their car in the parking lot.
“That tends to happen a lot more when it’s cold out,” Gierach jokes.
“It’s the ultimate of customer service,” Murphy adds. “The best days are when you actually do help somebody.”
7 p.m. — Student Safety Services
“Oh good, they didn’t prank us,” Sean Bolender, coordinator of Student Safety Services says as he starts the vehicle and “Rumor Has It” by Adele plays on the radio. “It’s not uncommon for me to get into one of these vehicles during the day time and classical music comes out full volume.”
Bolender takes a right out of the parking lot and heads towards off campus student housing. While Gierach and the rest of the OSU police officers don’t patrol east of High St., this area is one of Student Safety Services biggest responsibilities.
While Gierach and the rest of the officers on duty are on their lunch break, Student Safety Services is preparing for a night of picking up students and patrolling the off-campus area.
8 p.m. — 10 p.m.
The officers mostly keep to themselves as they eat their lunch in the briefing room. Officer Gierach finishes his Get-Go hamburger and rice crispy treat, disregarding the fact that he earlier claimed today as “healthy day.”
While one officer scrolls through his Facebook feed, another grows frustrated as he talks to a T-Mobile operator on the phone about the owner of cell phones that were confiscated from a criminal two nights prior.
Gierach tosses his leftover food in the garbage around 9:00 p.m. and heads back to his Dodge Charger to get back to work.
The sun has set and a red light now tints the interior of the Dodge Charger. Gierach heads towards University Hospital East for a “house check.”
“It’s pretty quiet. There must be something good on TV that’s keeping ‘em calm,” Gierach says.
“Mike and Molly!” another officer on duty exclaims.
Gierach explains that the long lines at the emergency room causes patients to get angry. A fish tank was recently added to the waiting room that makes things more “soothing.”
While the hospital isn’t in the safest part of town, the officer on duty explains that the sound of gun shots has decreased since he first started working.
As Gierach pulls out of the hospital parking lot, he notices two people arguing at a nearby bus stop. He pulls up to the stop and rolls down his window.
“Everything O.K.?” he asks.
The man and woman assure him that they just left the emergency room and are just waiting for the bus.
He pulls away and continues into the night.
11 p.m. — Dustin Mowery’s patrol car
“Ah fuck,” Officer Dustin Mowery barks as a pile of unidentifiable items topple out of his patrol car in the dark as he opens the hatchback.
Once he has gathered himself, physically and mentally, he slides into the driver’s side of his cruiser, just like he has been doing almost every day for the last six years.
He turns on the car and pulls up about 100 feet to his personal car, a red Toyota Highlander. Leaving the patrol car door open, he unlocks the back of his SUV and pulls out a black duffel bag, which he transfers to the rear of the cruiser. His movements are fluid and habitual as he does this, and then slides back into his seat.
He opens the Toshiba laptop that sits on a swiveling pedestal between the driver and passenger seats and angles it towards himself.
He types a password to login. It doesn’t work. He tries two more times.
“What. The. Fuck. I guess it would help if I could get the password right.”
The blue light of the computer accentuates the features of his profile; aquamarine eyes, bold eyebrows, high cheekbones, receding hairline.
He tries again to no avail.
“Son of a BISCUIT!”
After finally logging in and setting up, he pulls out of the Blankenship Hall parking lot and begins his patrol, turning right onto Kenny Road before making a swift left onto Woody Hayes Drive.
He doesn’t follow a specific route during any of his shifts because he never wants to be seen as predictable.
He pulls into a parking lot, vacant except for a metallic blue Prius. He pulls up to it and shines his spotlight inside, checking for people- there is no one.
Most of his weeknights are uneventful, which gives him more time to be thorough — shining his spotlight into nearly every secluded car he sees.
Back on the road, he turns on the radio and immediately begins humming along to Metallica.
The humming is interrupted on the east end of Olentangy River Road, where he abruptly slows down and points his spotlight out to the right seeking a suspect, and he finds him: the beady little eyes of a local fox that runs around.
He returns to his driving and humming, the radio now set to a station playing “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran.
He comes across a heavy set homeless woman in a red fleece jacket standing in the middle of Neil Avenue. He had a confrontation with her last week where she was very drunk, very loud and very rude. He comes to a stop and puts down his window to talk to her.
“Why are you following me around?” she grunts.
“Hey, I recognize you! What are ya doing in the middle of the street?”
“I’m just walking, that’s not a problem, is it?”
“It’s not a problem, but let’s do that on the sidewalk OK? Where ya goin’?”
“Can you take me to the shelter?”
“You know I can’t do that, girl. I’ll see ya later.” He smiles. “Get out of the street!”
The woman mumbles inaudibly, as Mowery rolls up his window and eased back into traffic.
Before working for OSUPD, Mowery worked for the Logan (Ohio) Police Department, where his father was also an officer. He always knew he would be a cop.
Mowery pulls into the empty parking lot at the Agricultural Administration building and drives 500 feet to park next to another OSU patrol car. The two offers roll down their windows.
“What’s goin’ on, Stupid?”
“Hey dummy. How’s it going Jerk-Off?”
Officer Mark Sandbrink is cleanshaven with chocolate brown eyes and a round face. His daughter is a freshman at Ohio State.
“She keeps getting sick. She’ll send me a picture of her thermometer at like a 100 degrees, and I’m like ‘I don’t know what you want me to do! Don’t go to class, get some rest.’ It’s like she never left home. She’ll still ask me to buy her dinner or come by her dorm to bring her a Mountain Dew,” he tells Mowery, who has a 10-year old daughter.
“Glad I don’t have to deal with the teenage years yet,” he replies.
“I don’t wanna do day shift, but my wife said it would be in my best interest,” says Mark. “Oh, we just got all our doors replaced — 15 doors.”
This goes on for 45 minutes- discussions of families and money and salt water swimming pools before Mowery says, “All right, gotta go meet Bob for lunch. See ya, Dummy.”
2 a.m. — Lunchtime
Mowery pulls back into the Blankenship Hall parking lot, making another stop at his Toyota Highlander. He pulls a blue, square lunch cooler out of the front seat and then parks the cruiser in front of the station.
He struts inside and takes a quick left to enter the break room.
Still standing, he pulls each item out of his lunchbox and lays it on the break room table, where Officer Bobby Patel is sitting and eating a wrap from Get-Go.
Mowery picks up his strawberry Greek yogurt, walks through a doorway in the rear corner of the room and asks, “Got a spoon?”
He returns with a plastic spoon and picks up the remote for the 60-inch television hanging on the wall and instinctively flips to the National Geographic channel.
“Ah man, it’s not Tuesday. Mick Dodge isn’t on. What’s this? Brain Games? That’ll do.”
He stares at the TV for 30 minutes while eats his turkey sandwich, potato chips, and yogurt, chatting occasionally with Patel, who was still working on his wrap and intermittently sipping iced green tea through a blue straw.
“Did you hear the kid who slit the other guy’s throat killed the wrong guy? It wasn’t even the guy he was pissed at.”
“At this point all that fancy lawyer of his can do is stop him from getting life in prison or getting the needle.”
Mowery cleans up his trash, and stands up to put his coat back on. Walking out of the room, he points at Patel and makes eye contact.
“Be safe, Dummy.”
3 a.m. to 7 a.m. — Bobby Patel’s patrol car
Bobby Patel is soft-spoken and often has to repeat himself. He wears a black Brooks ski hat that covers his ears and forehead, even when he’s inside. When he drags himself back into his cruiser after lunch, it’s obvious that he is not a fan of the overnight shift.
“Man, from 3 o’clock on, it’s crickets. Especially on a Monday. You gotta fight to stay awake.”
Officers get their shifts based on their seniority at the unit, and that not too long after he got moved to second shift, someone below him transferred and bumped him back to overnights. He’s only been on the force since 2008, and his job with OSU is his first as an officer.
“Hopefully I’ll be done with this shift soon. It’s pretty boring, and I wanna spend days with my daughter instead of having to be asleep. Right now she knows that I need to sleep until 3, and then she can come wake me up.”
He circles the vacant campus four times before getting a call to go do a quick routine check of the OSU airport.
On the highway, he looks up at his rearview mirror and laughs quietly.
“Man, I don’t know why people won’t pass cops. I’m doing like 50, and I’m not even in jurisdiction to pull this guy over, but he’s still staying behind me. People are dumb.”
After driving by the airport (also vacant) and the OSU East Hospital, Patel makes his way for the Grandview Yard Get-Go to refill his green tea.
Patel pulls into a parking lot off Woody Hayes, and opens an Internet browser on the computer. He doesn’t like to waste gas driving around an empty campus, especially on an uneventful Monday.
He goes to YouTube and watches videos of Crossfit workouts.
His radio does not sound once. The videos continue, along with a couple sporadic patrol trips around campus, until 6:50 comes and Patel heads for Blankenship Hall.
He parks his cruiser and hurries inside to drop off a black duffel bag and say goodbye to Mowery before he returns to his car and goes home to sleep until his daughter wakes him up at exactly 3 p.m.
The morning shift officers make their way inside, starting another new day.