Spring has come to Upland, IN. and the excitement is felt more than ever in the Taylor University Police Department.
Over Christmas break, a Taylor police cruiser was totaled by a deer running into it.
“We didn't hit the deer,” said Taylor Police Chief, Jeff Wallace. “The deer literally ran full speed into the side of the police car on State Road 22.”
This event resulted in a damaged front quarter, full airbag deployment and a totaled appraisal from the insurance company. Since then, Taylor Police have been walking through the process of building a new police cruiser, but as of Fri. March 5, it is just waiting on police decals.
“It’s a long Process” said Wallace. “It's a lot even if it wasn't COVID, but COVID definitely complicated it.”
The department was able to salvage and refit a large amount of equipment from the damaged car, and retrofit it to the new one, which saved them upwards of $10,000. The reconstruction consisted of sourcing an out-of-state cruiser, putting in the salvageable parts from the old car and waiting on additional parts and lights to be shipped.
For Wallace, the most exciting part is that the car is a hybrid, which is becoming more common amongst new cruisers. This feature saves on fuel emissions and gas money, as it operates solely on battery power whenever idling.
Wallace has also been working on saving money and energy around Taylor. Recently, Taylor Police have had ongoing conversations with the student senate and senior leadership about increasing lighting around darker areas of campus. The group is in the developmental stage of finding a solution to the issue.
“We want to respond appropriately and we want to make sure it's helpful in the process,” said Wallace. “Ultimately, we want our students to feel safe. That's the bottom line.”
Currently, the team is deciding the most effective types of lighting to use, the available contractors for the project and the most fiscally responsible way to accomplish all of it. The issue was raised as a goal for 2021 and becomes more relevant as students spend more time outside around campus.
The shift into spring has been present both out of the office and inside it. New life is present, as Lauren Yeakle, campus police officer, occasionally brings her black labrador puppy, Daisy, into the office in an effort to socialize and monitor the young dog.
Yeakle has now been on staff for a year, and has settled in well to the station.
“I feel like I'm right at home,” she said.
Yeakle and Wallace have stayed busy as spring has also brought some changes in campus responsibility. They have traded ice and snow duties for monitoring outdoor athletics, pedestrian traffic and tornado season. Wallace especially is grateful for the shift, as he prefers tornado drills to icy roads any day.
As temperatures rise and the end of the school year is in sight, Wallace is grateful for the world slowly but steadily getting a handle on COVID-19. As a station, the officers were limited in how they could interact and help students and local citizens for a long time. As Grant County COVID-19 numbers decrease, however, they’ve been able to do more practical things such as meet with students in the office and give cruiser rides to those in need.
“That actually is something we love to do,” Wallace said. “Just like everybody else we're just super excited to keep pushing through this, and I think we're doing really well. It's exciting to see some light into the tunnel.”