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Saturday, November 1, 2014


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St. Paddy's Day from a cop's perspective




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Officer Erich Vedder, left, and Sgt. Marc Smith tend to an individual after he ran into a lamp post after being questioned about his age and having alcohol with him Sunday on Forest Street. Smith was one of the many ELPD officers patrolling during St. Patrick’s Day. Julia Nagy/The State News



Shouts of “I hate you” and “Thank you” from green-clad celebrators greeted East Lansing police Sgt. Marc Smith as he road through the streets of East Lansing on St. Patrick’s Day.

This hardly was surprising for the almost 20-year veteran of the department, who The State News caught a ride with for a few hours on Sunday.

“It’s a little more enjoyable,” Smith said of being on road patrol on St. Patrick’s Day.

“People hooting and hollering at you, waving — for me that’s enjoyable stuff. You get out and talk to them, you see different things and then you get to a point where you’re chasing somebody … I like it because you get to see all the different stuff.”

Smith said he was one of about 20 East Lansing officers on the day-shift road patrol Sunday — four times the typical amount — not including units from other local departments who came to help deal with the expected influx of crimes and incidents typically associated with the holiday.

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By Julia Nagy / The State News
People wish Sgt. Marc Smith a "Happy St. Patrick's Day" on March 17, 2013, on M.A.C. Ave. During his ride, Smith got everything from well wishes to "I hate you" from people walking. Julia Nagy/The State News

Premedical freshman Mike Bourgoin said he was surprised it would be necessary to have such a large number of police out this year.

“I was confused as to why the state police were here,” Bourgoin said. “But I thought it was really safe.”

For Smith, it wasn’t surprising to see a woman playing in the snow of someone’s lawn suddenly sober-up and leave at the mere site of him.

Not even watching an underage drinker carrying a brown liquor run head first into a light-pole and knock himself unconscious caught him off-guard.

The one surprising aspect of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day in East Lansing and at MSU for Smith: seeing someone wearing an all-black-and-red outfit in a sea of leprechaun and green-themed costumes.

Smith, who typically gets up at 3 a.m. to make it to the beginning of his 12-hour shift at 5 a.m., said although St. Patrick’s Day can mean more police activity, there’s nothing he did differently besides being extra alert to avoid hitting the many St. Patrick’s Day celebrators frequently crossing the street in front of his car as he drove.

Even on non-drinking and partying holidays, Smith frequently has to be on high-alert while driving because of his need to multi-task looking for crimes, listening to dispatch, driving and keeping an ear open for his phone to ring in case another officer calls.

Many times, calls about fights or large, out-of control parties were under control by the time Smith arrived on scene because so many police were in the area, which he said leads to a fairly relaxing holiday.

As of mid-afternoon on St. Patrick’s Day 2013, Smith said he would compare the day’s activity level to a typical Friday or Saturday night and perhaps slower than last year’s St. Patrick’s Day because of the colder weather.

East Lansing police Capt. Jeff Murphy said the level of crimes were busy for a Sunday, but slow for a St. Patrick’s Day.

Smith said he enjoys seeing all the happy faces on holidays such as St. Patrick’s Day.

“We’re not here to destroy anyone’s celebration,” he said. “If (people are) not violating the law, not violating anyone else’s rights, we’re here to let them have a good time.”


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