A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A UH POLICE OFFICER
our enrollment numbers higher than the total population of
Huntsville, Texas, the University of Houston’s police department
has a big job on their hands. There are a lot of students
counting on them to keep their campus safe, and, as Officer
Larry Adams will get first-hand knowledge of today, parents
depend on their help as well in order to keep their children
out of harm’s way.
The clock is just hitting 6:30 a.m. on a Tuesday morning and
Officer Adams is already in his University of Houston patrol car
answering a call. The father of a 17-year-old female student has
been unable to reach his daughter since Friday evening and is
out of his mind with worry. He calls the UHPD with hopes that
they can help him find his daughter. During their last phone
call Friday night, the father said she told him she was on her
way to her room in Moody Towers to study for a test. However, he
has been unable to reach her since and now her cell phone is
going straight to voice mail. It has been three days.
Officer Adams goes right to work, getting the girl’s schedule
and meeting with the other officers at the station to go over
their plan. Her schedule said her first class begins at 8:30
a.m. so he takes the information along with a photo of the girl
and plans to stand outside of her class and look for her as
students arrive. In the meantime, his fellow officers at the
station will keep digging for leads, and Officer Adams heads out
to his next call.
This call is much less serious – a staff member is locked out of
her building and needs assistance to get inside. UHPD officers
will tell you their typical day has its highs, its lows and its
in-betweens. This call can be considered a good trip because it
means Officer Adams gets to visit some of his friends on campus.
People around the university know and welcome Officer Adams’
friendly face and warm greeting. He travels wherever the day and
the calls shall take him, and he has made many friends along the
way in his 27 years of service at the university.
“The best part of the job is the contact with the community,” he
said. “I like to be out visiting and talking with people.”
University of Houston is a long way from Officer Adam’s hometown
of Lorain, Ohio. After high school, he got a job in Ohio as a
welder at a steel mill. However, after the industry took a hit
in the early 1980s, Adams and his cousin left their small town
and headed south to Texas. He attended the police academy in
Alvin, applied for a job at the University of Houston’s
Department of Public Safety, and has been here ever since.
Officers on the UH police department must go through rigorous
training and licensing courses before hitting the streets. They
must also receive updates in their training, attending courses
regarding new legislation and more recently, active shooter
training. Officers must also attend firearms training and
re-qualify each year. Officer Adams said he is thankful that he
has never had to fire his weapon during his term at the
University, but said he has indeed had to pull his weapon while
in the line of duty in order to get suspects to comply.
Thankfully, all the altercations ended peacefully.
Today, there are no suspects to pursue, but there is still a
lost girl to find. As the clock nears 8:30 a.m., Officer Adams
heads to the Social Work building to look for the missing
student. As students file into the classroom, he carefully
examines the photo with hopes to find a matching face. After the
class begins, the professor allows Officer Adams to make an
“No one is in trouble, I just need to give her a message,” he
said to the class as he calls out the girl’s name.
But there is no luck and Officer Adams heads back to the
station. Sgt. Paul Mauro tells him they were able to speak with
the girl’s roommate. The roommate informs the officers that the
girl rarely stays in the room, and she barely knows her. Officer
Adams heads back to Moody Towers to talk with the missing girl’s
father who is waiting anxiously in the lobby hoping his daughter
father has still had no communication with his daughter and is
growing increasingly anxious so Officer Adams heads out to
follow a few more leads to determine if the girl has been on
campus since Friday night before heading to her second class at
10 a.m. She is a no-show to her second class as well.
Disappointed, Officer Adams returns to his squad car. As a call
comes in through dispatch requesting his return to the station,
he said, “Maybe they found her!”
However, there is still no communication with the girl so
Officer Adams, Sgt. Mauro and Assistant Chief Brad Wigtil confer
at the station to determine the next step.
Assistant Chief Wigtil said they receive calls about missing
students frequently but normally find the student within an
hour. However, he said there are occasionally times when the
case gets more involved and can become worrisome.
“This is disconcerting for us,” Wigtil said. “These are our kids
here, our adopted kids, all 40,000 of them. So we are very
concerned for them.”
father joins the officers at the station and allows access to
his and his daughter’s phone records. Sgt. Mauro begins calling
numbers to find friends who the missing girl may have spoken to.
One friend answers and agrees to meet the officers after her
class for an interview. As they wait, Officer Adams heads to the
video surveillance room to check the tapes for the missing
girl’s last recorded entry into her residence hall. They find
her on tape and hold the footage in case it is needed. When he
returns to the station, there has been a break in the case.
The friend was able to reach the missing girl who was out of
town with another friend. The missing girl is contacting her
father to let him know she is safe. Finally at 12 p.m., the case
had come to a close and the officers were able to breathe a
The rest of the shift went by with much less conflict as Officer Adams returned to patrolling and checked on a call where a student fell and injured her ankle by Calhoun Lofts. The officer first responding to the call had alerted an ambulance to take the student to the hospital. Then came a call for a car accident along Spur 5. Officer Adams arrived on the scene to assess the situation while another officer filed the report. Luckily, no one was injured in the accident, however, tow trucks were needed to remove the vehicles from the intersection.
Adams said on average he will respond to around 5 calls a day.
The most common calls UHPD receives are for thefts of unsecured
belongings or calls concerning a sick employee or student that
needs medical attention. Officer Adams said calls for sick
students tend to increase during finals when students are
especially stressed and may not be eating regularly.
“Luckily, most of our calls are not too serious. Thankfully
today everybody has turned out to be ok,” he said.
Officer Adams and the rest of the UHPD want students to feel
comfortable approaching them for assistance. He said they make a
special effort to speak at international student orientations
because many students from other countries may come from an
environment where their police officers are not trustworthy.
“We’re here to help,” he said. “We try to stress that that is
what we are here for and I think we are getting through. A lot
more students are coming to us now.”
The shift is ending and Officer Adams heads back to the station
where he will return the squad car and keys and complete his
paperwork. One more shift comes to a peaceful close.
“You make a good living here,” Officer Adams said. “I’ve been
here for so long, I just stayed. And now, it’s time to move
Officer Adams will retire on January 31, 2012. He will head back
to Ohio to a town called Vermilion and leave the big city he has
called home for the last 28 years.
“I’m not going to miss the traffic here,” he said jokingly. He
said Vermilion is a quiet farm and fishing community with only a
few traffic lights in the whole town. “All you have to watch out
for are tractors and farm equipment and maybe a deer crossing
Officer Adams plans to enjoy his retirement by going fishing,
taking care of his garden, adopting a dog from a shelter, and
spending time with his family. He has a 91-year-old father as
well as his two children, ages 35 and 33. He also plans to look
after his two grandchildren, ages 12 and 3, as his daughter
completes her nursing degree. He said he looks forward to
retiring and returning to Ohio but will miss working for the
“I’ll miss the people here. It’s really like a big family here,”
he said. “This place has been really good to me. Now I’ve got to
make room for a younger officer to come in.”
Thank you to Officer Adams for your outstanding service to the
university, and congratulations on your upcoming retirement!