Within the University’s student body, there are a variety
of opinions on our relationship with the law enforcement agencies
— the Ann Arbor Police Department, as well as the
University’s Department of Public Safety — that police
the campus. Within this relationship, the most hotly contested
views come in regards to minor in possession of alcohol

Arrival at college brings with it an ultimate sense of freedom,
both academically and social. A distinct characteristic of this
newfound social freedom is widespread underage drinking. This is
nothing new, nor will it likely change. But, just because underage
drinking is pervasive on campus doesn’t make it any more
legal. Herein lies the challenge to those who are sworn to enforce
the laws (including drinking laws) existing to police a group that
by and large chooses to ignore them, by the simple nature of this

Yet I disagree with the growing argument among students that the
AAPD seems “has nothing better to do than give out MIPs,
noise violations and open intox tickets,” and is being
overtly punitive toward the student population.

In my tenure at the University, I have had my fair share of
run-ins with the AAPD and its affiliates. In my conversations with
them, a fact has become clear to me: None of the officers I have
met entered their line of work with the goal of giving kids MIPs,
breaking up parties and trying to ruin our good times. Yet this
doesn’t mean we can flaunt our lawbreaking in front of the
police. Blatant disregard for the law is going to land you with a
ticket — that’s a fact — and it really should be

I feel that neither the AAPD or DPS deserves a reputation as
vindictive, out to get the students or “wasting their
time” giving out drinking violations. Rather, I see them in
quite a different light — as an organization that is
committed to enforcing the law, to keeping Ann Arbor safe and to
keeping the student population in line.

Think about it: When was the last time anyone got an MIP from
the cops coming into a party and writing up tickets? It
doesn’t happen. When will you get an MIP?

Drinking on the street or sidewalk? Yep.

Throwing up outside of Bell’s Pizza at 3:30 a.m.? Yep.

Stumbling into the football game with a bottle of Hot Damn?
I’ve seen that ticket written.

Drinking 40s at Yost Ice Arena during a club hockey game? Oh, I
saw that one up close and personal.

In essence, if you show enough stupidity or overt disregard for
the law, you’ll land yourself in the fifth district court
with pretty good consistency. Yet, show a little thought (we are
students at one of the most prestigious public research
institutions in the country) when you are drinking, and odds are
you’ll be able to avoid an unfortunate interaction with the
local police forces.

I’ve seen the AAPD party patrols in action on the
weekends; I’ve seen police drive by my house during a party;
I’ve been at parties that were broken up and I’ve been
on the receiving end of a few noise violations. I’ve seen
plenty of MIPs given out, heard (and told) stories about getting an
MIP, and throughout everything it’s very rare that MIP tales
don’t involve some version of the phrase “Yeah, in
hindsight it was probably stupid …”

The unique quality of the student-police ratio in Ann Arbor is a
level of respect that is rare on college campuses today. Yeah, late
on a Friday night, the AAPD isn’t the student’s best
friend (for that, I recommend looking to Big Ten Burrito for a
chicken nacho or the like), but the police aren’t our sworn
enemy by any means. Isn’t it always easiest to pick out the
freshmen at a party during Welcome Week because they get nervous or
run at the first sign of a police cruiser? We soon learn that if we
stay quiet, stay on the porch or in the house and keep ourselves
(and our parties) under control, the police will respect our
privacy and desire to have a good time. When things get out of
hand, they come in and break up the party. Done and done. In this
way, the parties are kept under control without fostering a sense
of resentment among the student body, without creating a feeling of
fear/anger at the sight of an officer of the law.

Obviously this isn’t a universal truth; I’m sure
there are plenty of stories about students who feel they have been
screwed over by the police at one time or another. Yet, I feel
overall we as students need to respect the quality of the
relationship we have with the AAPD. In many ways, we have earned
this level of respect by showing reciprocal respect for law
enforcement. We don’t riot, we don’t cause huge
problems and we take our tickets when they are handed out. We need
to keep this up, despite recent rising concerns that more MIPs are
being given out, that more noise violations are given when they
aren’t earned, etc. Just take a look at the relationship
students have with the police at Michigan State University or
Western Michigan. We don’t want that, and we don’t have
it. Our University is renowned for the amiable relationship its
students have with the police. I am proud to be a part of that
culture, as I think it shows a level of maturity and respect on our
part, and a level of understanding and commitment to protecting Ann
Arbor citizens (both students and permanent residents) on the part
of the AAPD and DPS.


Mittlebach is an LSA senior.


View this feature as it appears in print:

30: Getting Along With The Law

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