It was about 10:30 a.m. when officer Arcelia Rosas walked into the waiting room of the Long Beach State University Police Department and greeted me with a smile and handshake ahead of our ride along.
“It’s really cool that you’re doing this,” Rosas said. “Most of the time there’s a ride-along, it’s with applicants. I don’t think a whole lot of students know [the UPD] exists.”
I followed her through a hall that has doors to the police captains’ offices, a dispatcher room, a break room, a holding cell and an armory.
Almost every door is labeled with a word that UPD officers strive to live by. Among the words are “Integrity” and “Strength,” but the last door, leading to the back of the UPD where the patrol cars are located, has a label that reads “Honor.”
Rosas has been an officer for 12 years and has been at CSULB for the last three years, and she said she strives to always serve with honor.
“It’s a lot different from working in cities,” Rosas said. “Sure, we’re not chasing robbers or dealing with big-time criminals, but we have our scares. Like the threat made on campus a few weeks back.”
After removing some equipment from the passenger seat into the back of the patrol car, Rosas threw on her black sunglasses and we started our ride along.
We exited the back gates of the UPD headquarters and began to loop around campus.
“We won’t be getting many calls until the next classes end,” Rosas said as we passed the Go Beach sign. “That’s when things start to get busy and we usually have to help with traffic control.”
Rosas might’ve spoken too soon. Less than 10 minutes later, she’s called back into the UPD office to take a report for a theft incident.
When we arrived back at the office, Rosas headed into a room marked “Integrity” to grab a field interview flashcard. She proceeded to meet with a student who reported their laptop stolen.
“I’m hoping this was just a misunderstanding and they return [the laptop],” the victim said to Rosas. “I’m just a college student, you know, I can’t just go and get a new one.”
After hearing the student’s story, Rosas kept a calm demeanor and apologized for what happened to him. She said she knows what it’s like to be a college student.
Rosas worked two jobs while attending California State University, Northridge in the early 2000s. She earned her bachelor’s in sociology and minored in criminal justice.
After taking the report on the stolen laptop, Rosas and I got back into the patrol car and continued our ride through CSULB.
We headed north on Warren Drive until we reached Atherton Street. Rosas was ready to take a stroll through CSULB’s off-campus properties.
The first site we visited was Beachside College Dormitory, one of the off-campus housing sites for CSULB students. All seemed fine, so we continued on to Blair Field, home of the Long Beach State Dirtbags.
UPD officers patrol a one-mile radius around the CSULB campus, so they’re responsible for more than just CSULB students.
Rosas has a “Vehicle Registration/Stolen Check” tab open on her patrol car monitor while she patrols the Long Beach streets. All she has to do is enter a car’s license plate number, and the car’s registration information will come up in an instant.
“If I see a car with tags that have been expired for about three or more months, I’ll pull them over,” Rosas said. “I don’t stop vehicles often, though. The campus is my main priority.”
We were heading down E. Stearns Street when a white Volkswagen made an illegal U-turn right in front of us. Rosas made her way to the nearest left-turn lane, made a proper U-turn, and pulled over the Volkswagen driver.
“I could have given him a ticket,” Rosas said. “I let him go with a warning. I try not to give tickets unless it’s something really serious.”
Rosas’ words speak to her laidback, friendly attitude. She made stops to greet parking patrol officers, CSULB maintenance workers and even helped a man find his way around the Walter Pyramid during our ride along.
Rosas always dreamed of being a police officer when she was growing up, and her love for her job is clear.
“I wouldn’t want to do anything else,” Rosas said. “I always say, if I were to win the lottery, I wouldn’t even think about quitting my job.”
Call traffic was rather slow for Rosas during our ride along. She said the officers don’t get many busy days after the first months of a semester, but they’re on campus 24/7, including holidays, if students ever need them.
“Be a good witness. Help us help you,” Rosas said. “If you see something suspicious or out of place, give us a call. It’s not about getting someone in trouble, it’s about keeping the campus safe, and that’s ultimately our goal…keeping our campus safe.”