“We tried to come to an understanding that there wasn’t any intent, there wasn’t any ulterior motive, you know, on behalf of the officers.”
from an interview with Michael Brickner, City of Valparaiso Chief of Police, 2013
Transcript for Responding to a Report
Michael Brickner, City of Valparaiso Chief of Police, 2013
Michael Brickner. I’m the chief of police of Valparaiso Police Department. I’ve been with the police department twenty-seven years, so a long time. There was an incident at the baseball field. This was probably last fall. There was an email that was going around where, I think, students had emailed somebody at the university and described this incident. It was never reported to the police department of improper behavior by any individuals or any of our officers. It was through an email, and then to make a long story short, I found out that this happened but it was maybe a month or two after it had occurred.
There were two black males that were parked—I’m gonna call it the baseball field on university property. I don’t know if it was early evening. What was reported to us was that a car came by and asked if they needed any help. It was civilians, you know, just a regular car. And the answer they received was, there was some vulgarities and profanity said and basically said, “No,” you know, “Get out of here. We’re fine.” Or something to that effect. Well, what exactly was said there, I don’t know. This was just what was reported to us because that car then came to the Valpo Police Department. An individual from that car reported two suspicious people at this field that refused any help and thought they should be checked out. So we dispatched a police officer to the ball field. From what I know there were two or three policemen that showed up. And one of them was—had a dog in the backseat. The officers inquired, got identification from the two males, found out they were VU students. There was nothing going on. After identifying them, we left. There wasn’t any further action taken. You know, nobody was written a ticket, there was no—there was really no cause for anything else. They found out it was nothing. They were there just talking or something.
So the two young males were upset by the incident. I don’t know at the time they understood that we were called there. Our police officer just didn’t drive by and see them and decide to identify them. So I don’t know—I think that was relayed to them, but I wasn’t sure. So once the emails started coming and I started looking into it, I received a email from President Heckler and he was talking about it, and I had no problem meeting with him and the two individuals that were involved. So I did. I met with President Heckler and the two gentlemen in his office and, you know, we talked for quite awhile and we listened. One of my biggest concerns was how they were treated by our officer. I think it was just a whole thing of the experience was not a good one. But I also felt that, you know, we made progress. I mean, they understood that it wasn’t a self-initiated stop on behalf of the police department or the officers. We were responding to a report—which, we have to go.
Officers don’t know what they’re getting into or walking into. And they even said that once the officers found out that they were VU students and, you know, that it wasn’t anything going on, everything kind of toned down and they finished getting the identification and then left. So I know that they were talking about the dog barking in the email, and that particular dog barks all the time, but the dog was not let out. You know, I asked if the dog was let out of the car, you know, and it wasn’t. You know, I wanted to empathize with them as well. That I could see where it would be uncomfortable and to some degree—and we tried to come to at least an understanding that there wasn’t any intent, there wasn’t any ulterior motive, you know, on behalf of the officers. And it was left at that.
Hold a Conversation
Can you imagine leading a conversation about this story? Where? With whom? What kinds of questions would you pose? (See How to use the questions for reflection for one approach.) Please email your questions to us or post them in the comment box for our consideration. If you use them in an actual discussion, let us know how the conversation went.