The morning officer

The+morning+officer

Shannon Snyder

Patrol officer Navaro Nation is a young, resilient member of Case Western Reserve University’s police department, a department that has seen many changes as crime rates in University Circle have drastically changed.

Jason Sleisenger, Contributing Reporter

It is 7:30 a.m. on a cold, misty morning. All is quiet on Case Western Reserve University’s campus, save for the slight rumblings of cars passing on Euclid Ave. and the leaves of Juniper and Cedar trees blowing in the light wind. Students are sleeping off a long night of socializing or studying and professors are nowhere to be found in University Circle. It seems as if there is not a care in the world for anything or anyone to pay conscious attention to or be responsible for.

That is, until you meet Patrol Officer Navaro Nation. The tall, athletically-built 23-year-old steps out of the CWRU police station with a bounce in his step and the energy of a little kid going trick-or-treating on Halloween. A toothy smile appears as he shakes my hand as if I am an old friend. “Are you here for the ride-along?” he asks.

We walk over to his patrol car, a Chevrolet Impala, gleaming as if it has just been shipped in from the factory. “Car number 502,” Nation says. “My car.”

He welcomes me to my seat, opening my door like a limousine chauffeur. But in the blink of an eye, he is seated right next to me with the anticipation and focus of a champion sprinter. The ignition starts, Nation checks his mirrors, and suddenly, another day in the life of a campus police officer begins.

As we meander through the campus streets, alleys, maintenance roads, and the empty, rain-drenched Case Quad, Nation recounts the passage to his profession. This is his second year on the CWRU police force after training at the Basic Police Academy at Cuyahoga Community College. He then worked in security at CWRU for a few months. However, Nation was not planning on following this career path from the start.

“Becoming a police officer was the last thing on my mind growing up,” he says. “Police were kind of viewed in a negative way.”

Nation grew up in Cleveland Heights and knew a lot of people that had entanglements with the law.

Before entering public service, he studied Business Management and Sociology at Baldwin Wallace University with the dream of starting his own business. Unfortunately, this dream would have to wait.

Nation decided to train to be a firefighter, something he had fantasized about since his childhood. However, when the job market appeared slim in that field, he decided to try out the career he had been avoiding, and he soon grew accustomed to it.

As he drives, his speech is relaxed, yet focused. “Even on a day like this, you’ve got to be aware. Everything I pass, I need to be able to see,” he says.

Even on a lazy Saturday morning, he tries to remain prepared for anything. “Keeping the peace is 80-85 percent how to communicate with [a suspect]. It’s also important not to sound intimidating, and to relate to [the suspect] somehow,” he says confidently.

“There was this one guy stealing laptops, and when we found him and arrested him, he was very respectful and appreciated the way [he and the other officers] handled the situation.”

As Nation pulls the car into Lakeview Cemetery, he’s reminded of another incident.

“We’ve had a suspect on pursuit run through here once,” he says. “We had to call in backup to surround the entire area, and what could have taken several hours was resolved in a matter of minutes.” The suspect was detained and taken into custody without resisting.

We continue back toward campus, and pull into a parking lot in front of the lower housing in the South Residential Village. Nation rolls down his window as he spots veteran University Circle Police Officer Richard Thomas.

“How ya doing, boys?” asks the animated officer, who has worked on the University Circle Police Department for over thirty years and has seen plenty of changes.

“There used to be at least four, five robberies a week…, the Eldred Theater rape [of journalist Joanna Connors in 1984]…and most recently, the [2006] shooting in the Peter B. Lewis Building,” Thomas says. “Nowadays, it’s been real quiet, but that’s a good thing…especially since the creation of the [CWRU] police department.”

Like Thoma, Nation also appreciates the hard work that has gone into transitioning the neighborhood from slightly violent to notably tranquil, despite the fact his job at times may appear mundane and monotonous.

“[The CWRU Police Department and University Circle Police Department] do much different things, but we’re really a team working together,” Nation says to me as we drive along Adelbert Rd. “University Circle Police enforce a wider area than CWRU Police, but the latter specialize more on campus.”

We continue to the north side of campus, where I finally get to see some law enforcement as a man has parked his car next to a fire hydrant. As if it is second nature, Nation calls in to the dispatch center, locates his position, runs the plates of the car in the database, and just as he gets out of the car, the owner of the illegally parked vehicle returns with his two daughters. Nation issues the man a warning and returns to the car. After radioing in that “the ticket is void,” he explains that it’s up to his discretion to ticket in that situation.

“It’s the weekend, and he’s with his kids. I’ll let it slide this time,” Nation says. “But he shouldn’t let it happen again.” A slight grin emerges from his face.

When I ask him about what his plans are for the future, Nation reaffirms his desire to start his own business. “It would be hard to leave this [police] department” he says.

For now, he will remain Officer Nation. He will “take each day one at a time,” he says. And he will continue to be our morning guardian.