A night in the life of IU police


An IUPD police car sits idly behind a routine traffic violation. IUPD's night shift runs from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Kelly Evans and Kelly Evans Buy Photos

Full-time officer Pablo Padilla, clad in a navy blue beanie and short sleeve IU Police Department uniform, left the police station.

It was Tuesday night at IUPD. The station was nearly silent except for the hum of the lobby radiator and the chatter of police radios behind closed doors. Headlights from cars and buses outside shined across the glass of the department’s double doors as he left.

Just a few minutes after 8:30 p.m., Padilla was ready to begin his rounds, which had him drive around campus to see what tonight had in store for him.

When the scanner was inactive, Padilla was free to drive around campus and the outer area of Bloomington. The young officer kept a keen eye out for traffic violations and people who look generally suspicious. Padilla said some of the more common offenses the department sees are substance-related.

“We deal a lot with intoxicated individuals and marijuana at the dorms,” Padilla said. “It’s not necessarily a huge problem, but I guess it’s what you’d expect working on a college campus, especially the night shift.”

Padilla graduated from IU last December after completing his criminal justice degree in three and a half years. He was also a graduate of the IUPD cadet 

“I love Bloomington night life,” Padilla said. “I’m 22 years old and a full-time officer, so it’s like I’m still living the college life.”

Padilla hadn’t even been on the road for 20 minutes when he encountered his first traffic violation — a seemingly expired license plate — across from the police department. He called in to headquarters on his radio and triggered the flashing blue and red lights for his first stop of the night. This particular driver just happened to forget to put his new sticker on his plate — a minor mistake that Padilla let off with a warning.

The night continues.

Approaching 9 p.m., Padilla continued cruising down North Jordan Avenue. The officer drove a larger police car, instead of the sedan he is used to driving. Without murmurs from the radio, the only other noise came from the gun box in the trunk rattling after the car hits a pothole or suddenly stops at a red light.

This was hour three of Padilla’s shift. IUPD recently switched from eight to 12-hour shifts. While 12-hour shifts might not be the norm for most jobs in the United States, Padilla said he loves the current set-up.

“I can say that it’s split between who likes and doesn’t like it,” Padilla said. “The days are long, but I love it.”

Tuesday had little activity. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays are typically the busiest days especially compared to Sundays and Mondays, but crime can be unpredictable, and it could happen in a second, Padilla said.

A jumble of numbers and police codes screeched out from the radio. The Bloomington Police Department narrowed in on a car it’s been attempting to locate. Just a few blocks away from the location, Padilla took off. His slow crawl of 25 miles per hour doubled to 50. His sirens and lights penetrated the pitch-black darkness of the night, as he quickly spoke into the radio. He’s en route for backup.

Padilla sped past the heart of Bloomington and enters a neighborhood past the BPD. His hand tightened on the steering wheel with every passing second.

The wanted car sits in a church parking lot. When Padilla 
approaches, there are already more than five BPD cars there with their front doors ajar. Officers, guns aimed and commanding the man inside to exit the vehicle, surround the car.

More cars arrived, and one county officer is now among them. That makes about ten.

A K-9 dog’s bark added noise to an otherwise silent winter night. After a moment’s hesitation, the man on the passenger side slowly stepped out from the car with his hands overhead in surrender. Cold metal handcuffs are linked to his wrists as his head hung parallel to the church gravel.

While BPD will pursue the incident from this point forward, Padilla said it’s not uncommon for the departments to reach out to one another like this.

The two departments work very closely together especially given the sometimes-overlapping 
jurisdictions they maintain.

Padilla headed back to the police car, his adrenaline finally slowing down.

All the lights were turned off and each police car returned to the road and separated on their patrols.

The night continued on a lot like it started. A red light is run, a taillight is busted, a residence assistant in Willkie Quad smelled marijuana. The early morning hours welcomed a call from Woodburn Hall — a building services worker accidentally set off an alarm.

“I wanted to do something that was different every single day,” Padilla says. “It has its down times, but you always get surprised in this job.”

As the morning hours passed, Padilla continued to roam. Every alleyway, every bar, every street is a potential crime scene. His slightly rolled-down window lets in a soft breeze as the officer continues his patrol into the morning.

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