Officers listen to student concerns

Department should better manage social media threats, drugs, alcohol, police say



Patrol Sgt. Aaron Breshears says there is an ordinance in Pullman that allows officers to stop a student if they are carrying a “chug jug” on Tuesday evening in the CUB Junior Ballroom. Breshears says officers are not unaware of underage drinking or weed consumption, but still want to ensure safety.

LAUREN ELLENBECKER, Evergreen reporter

ASWSU presented a town hall in collaboration with WSU Police and the Pullman Police Department about strengthening relations between students and law enforcement.

Attendees asked the panel how they keep each other accountable in the workplace.

WSU Police Officer Mike Petlovany said there are bad workers that slip through the cracks in every profession, and it is up to officers to hold each other accountable for their actions.

“There are bad apples,” he said, “and we need to be aware of it.”

A student asked how the police departments work to support victims of sexual assault, as well as what the discussion was between officers regarding the arrest of former Pullman Police Sgt. Jerry Hargraves.

Pullman Police Detective Chris Engle said officers evaluated the culture they had in their police department after the arrest of Hargraves. The department realized they needed to rebuild trust within the community following the internal sexual assault charges, he said.  

“I know that I have to demonstrate through my actions that I’m trustworthy,” Engle said.

WSU Police Officer Curtis Whitman said this situation put a chilling effect on assault survivors coming forward.

Whitman said the police departments can support victims of sexual assault by receiving more training, doing more outreach and improving the continuity in assault cases.

The panel spoke about how they are not seeking to catch students doing something bad, rather they are trying to guarantee the safety of students.

Whitman said the importance of the town hall is to improve that perception.

“My favorite thing is to say ‘Hi’ to students,” he said. “We want students to feel comfortable with our officers.”

Attendees asked the panel what the ideal relationship officers should have with the Pullman community, as well as the hardest part of their career.

Engle said the Pullman Police Department has a partnership with the community and is here to help solve citizens’ problems.

Patrol Sgt. Aaron Breshears said adapting to changes with the younger generation of students and societal change is difficult, especially with social media.

“We have to manage [threats on social media] so we don’t let things fall through the cracks,” WSU Chief of Police Bill Gardner said.

Officers spoke about the policy behind the prohibition of “chug jugs.”

Breshears said there is an ordinance in Pullman that prohibits carrying an open container of alcohol in public, and an officer is allowed to stop a student if they are carrying a chug jug.

A student asked the panel if they thought there is a possible future where all drugs are legalized.

Breshears said the legalization of drugs is often compared to Prohibition in the past and how its legalization can reduce crime, but he said society will probably never get to that point. He said more students die at WSU from drug and alcohol problems than anything else.

“You’re far more likely to die from heroin than being shot,” Breshears said.

The panel spoke about common mistakes made by WSU students like the irresponsible consumption of alcohol.

“Some [students] drink so much, they get sick or endanger others,” Whitman said.

Officers are not unaware of underage drinking or weed consumption, Breshears said, but they want to make sure students are being safe.