Day 2 - Dog Days
After a long flight we all handled the jet lag really well, we got our sleep patterns in check quickly and were firing on all cylinders for a busy day at Ball State Uni. Woke up to a thunderstorm of epic proportions, but it cleared up as the day went on. We had a great reception in the BSU Alumni centre, breakfast of fruit and tasty American cookies. Various members of the Criminal Justice and Criminology Department talked to us about our week and we had a chance to talk to them and discuss Criminal Justice, although for the most part we just told them how excited we were to be there. Eventually headed off on a campus tour and omg the place is huge. 21,000 students. It defies the imagination. Highlights were the library and the gym, the later being a 33 million Dollar development with a suspended indoor running track around 6 basketball courts, climbing wall, indoor sports field and 3 floor fitness centre. Puts anything in Keele to shame. After being stunned into silence by the sheer scale of the uni, and how anywhere could have a running track indoors, we headed over to meet a police canine unit.
It was incredible. After a talk from the chief of the Ball State University Police Department, Officer Stafford came in with Tara, the drug-sniffing-criminal-tracking-arm-biting-totally-adorable Belgian Malinois. The dog was amazing, with the trainer/Handler/Owner explaining everything and answering all our questions. The most bizarre thing (and there were many, many bizarre things) was how the Dog only understood Dutch, so this Cop had to give all the commands in Dutch. It also wasn't a crazy well trained untouchable police dog, you could play with it and it was awesome.
After a great indoor session, we headed outside, where the handler put a tracking collar on the dog (not a collar with a GPS, but a regular leather collar so the dog knows it's time to track (almost as amazing as how the dog didn't know it was looking for drugs, it just assumed it was sniffing out a tennis ball (which they used to train her by lacing it with the smell of drugs (which the dog loves (the ball, not drugs)))). We didn't have to go far, with some poor unfortunate other cop having to hide around the corner. The dog was unleashed and went for him, grabbing hold of the biting arm on the cop. Incredible show and massive learning curve. Went out for mexican later that night.
Day 3 - I call shotgun
After the trip to the massive gym the day before, I was up early to get training. My back is FINALLY better, so I headed over to the ball gym (a smaller gym closer to where I'm staying) for a cheeky morning workout. Felt great, then headed back to shower and grab an awesome cheap breakfast before a long day. Had talks with 3 different people over the course of the day, all from different Criminal Justice agencies, one was a Victim Advocate (who worked with victims of crime to guide them through the court process etc), one was an investigator with Muncie Police Dept. who specialised in Domestic Violence and the last was a CASA, a Court Appointed Special Advocate, a volunteer who guided children through the court system. Harrowing, but inspiring.
After lunch we headed off to various police departments to spend the afternoon riding along with a cop. I went to the university police (BSUPD), whilst others went with Muncie Police Dept. and Delaware County Sheriff Dept. I was a little sceptical at first, not entirely sure what to expect from a police force that only operated on campus, but soon learnt it was much more than that. They hold jurisdiction in the entire county, so we were gunning up and down the roads around campus dishing out speeding tickets, pulling over hillbillys with expired licence plates and helping track down some punk who robbed Wal-Mart. The cop I was with (Eric (or Officer Reffit) was a sound guy, we talked sports (the Rugby/American Football discussion mostly) and Bear Grylls (who is apparently a MASSIVE celebrity in the US, along with Piers Morgan). Before we headed out we had a guided tour of the station. A fantastic afternoon.
After the police headed home from the afternoon patrol for a training session, we (the wonderful people of Keele and the BSU Criminal Justice programme) ended up having pizza in one of the classrooms (in some stupidly laid out building, where I ended up having to ask some lucky american girl for directions). We had talks from a few people, 2 professors outlining the upcoming plan for a graduate exchange programme between the two uni's and a very brief history of policing in Taiwan before moving on to the final unexpected speaker. Mark, the bulky grizzled all american who we'd assumed to be another lecturer from BSU, turned out to be a cop. Not only a cop, but one that had been undercover in the narcotics industry for 26 years. Served for 32 years and picked up some grizzly injuries. Guess that's the way it is in America. Utterly incredible to meet such a character.
After such an eye opening day, we headed over to a sports bar in Muncie (45cent wing night = Heaven). One of the girls we were with managed to slip into conversation with the waitress that all British people are left handed and she believed us. She was very sweet, but quite ditzy and one shade of orange away from umpa lumpa. Great night. Welcome to America.
Hoping to get to the mega-sports complex in the morning before a morning at the courts. Will let you know how it goes. Missing you all loads, take care team!