In a ride with a Binghamton University police officer, Pipe Dream got an inside look at an average night for Binghamton’s New York State University Police.
Marc Leniek, a UPD lieutenant, took a Pipe Dream reporter on a ride last Friday night. While the night lacked traumatic events, Leniek still managed to impart his knowledge of life on the job during the first hours of his night shift.
We headed out to Leniek’s unmarked car and hit the road on patrol. He said taxis often give him trouble — there were even multiple occasions when his unmarked car was mistaken for one, much to the pedestrian’s embarrassment. However, Leniek said his real problem with taxis comes from the constant overpacking of cabs returning from Downtown.
“It’s a big deal when the cabs overload,” Leniek said. “The overload affects the braking systems and the suspension and has lead to accidents in the past.”
At least once a semester, UPD sets up a state-funded DUI checkpoint at the gates to check for fraudulent IDs and intoxicated drivers. On the nights that the checkpoint is not up, it is up to Leniek and his comrades to remain diligent.
“It has been a calm semester,” Leniek said, searching for wood to knock on. “Usually Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights are the most hectic, but we haven’t been seeing that many problems this year.”
Most patrol related incidents occur after 2 a.m., Leniek said. However, there are still routine occurrences before the hour when BU students flood back to campus from State Street.
Our first stop of the evening had us outside Champlain Hall in Dickinson Community to witness the final moments of a Harpur’s Ferry visit. A student was being taken to the hospital for pre-gaming too hard. Just as Leniek remarked on learning from mistakes, it was announced that this was the student’s second trip. As Harpur’s Ferry made its exit, we departed on the rest of the night’s watch.
Several more stops punctuated the night, as Leniek arrived to support officers already on the scene of various incidences. One stop was in response to the broken headlight of a Mini Cooper outside the University Health Services building on Vestal Parkway. Another stop took place on the road outside Science IV — a Volkswagen Jetta had piggybacked off a bus going through the main gates, failing to show identification to the entrance kiosk.
With the major events of the first few hours behind him, Leniek returned to his surveillance post outside the Chenango Champlain Collegiate Center. Leniek said that it takes a great amount of patience to patrol correctly.
“It is important to take things in and view them in a different light, different than a civilian would,” Leniek said. “Another key to patrolling is to be visible, to have your presence known. This helps to deter criminal activity.”
Leniek’s vehicle of choice is an unmarked car outfitted with dual spotlights, a laptop for quick searches on stopped vehicles, and of course, tinted windows. He also employs a specific set of sobriety tests, such as the Nystagmus, or follow-the-pen test, walk-and-turn test, and the standing-on-one-leg test, that enable him to determine whether an individual is inebriated and operating above the legal blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent. He is also equipped with an in-car B.A.C. device. While this device is accurate, according to Leniek, the results gained from it can only be used for ticketing purposes and are not admissible in court.
Currently, Leniek oversees 14 subordinates, including officers, dispatch and students. In his 15.5 years on the job, the last 13 have been at Binghamton with the first two-and-a-half years at SUNY Oneonta.
“When I first got on the job at 24, I was able to understand the perspective of the students toward the police,” Leniek said. “I had a better idea of where they were coming from. Now, I can really see it from the point of view of a parent, and it makes all the difference.”