By Kelli Hadley/Moscow-Pullman Daily News
When Washington State University students get into trouble with the Pullman Police Department, they probably don't realize one of their peers may be the one busting them.
Chris Engle, a part-time student and full-time police officer with PPD, grew up in Pullman and graduated from Pullman High School in 2002. He attended Western Washington University for a little more than three years but returned to Pullman before getting his degree. Engle said he enjoyed the university and the people he met but got burnt out and wanted to begin working, so he moved back, got married and was hired by the police department in 2007.
Now, at the "prodding" of his wife, he is taking online classes through WSU to finish up his degree, since he was close to obtaining it at Western anyway.
"I didn't want to be in classes with the same people I was going to have to see at night," Engle said. "Also, we were living in Colfax until July, and with my wife and my weird schedules, trying to go back and forth to Pullman all the time wasn't going to work." More... Engle takes online classes in a social sciences program that allows the student to select three concentrations in the field. He already had a concentration in business from Western and is developing two more in psychology and sociology. However, he said he always has known he wanted to go into law enforcement and plans to continue working as an officer for a while.
"I was excited to get into it," Engle said. "I was so burnt out on school, I was ready to start working. It's intimidating at first though, with all the stuff you have to learn, and it's a totally new environment."
Engle said it's a good thing he doesn't take in-person classes with his peers. As one of the College Hill officers who works 6 p.m. to 4 a.m., Wednesday through Saturday, he interacts with the students "very intensively."
But since College Hill is home to many people other than students, he said, "It can be very challenging, because everybody up there has a different idea of what the police should do.
That especially true, he said, "if the students think they should be able to get as drunk as they want and drink in public and ... other people up there think there should be no partying and no noise ever."
At 27, Engle said he is one of the younger officers in the police department. He said students will often try to connect with him the basis of his youth, hoping he'll be a little more lenient on them.
"They'll say, 'Oh, you were a kid not long ago, you did this too,' and I'll have to say, 'Well, I'm not any more and everyone has to learn,' " Engle said. "We have to let students enjoy their time here, but at the same time it can't cause too much disturbance to other people's property and lives."
Because Pullman is a small town, Engle said his favorite part of being in law enforcement is building relationships between the police department and the community.
"Busting people and driving fast, it's fun, but if that's the only reason you're doing this job, you're not going to enjoy it for very long," Engle said. "Especially in a place like Pullman, it's maybe three miles from end to end, so the adrenaline-pumping stuff lasts for maybe 45 seconds."
Especially, he said, because one arrest can mean hours of paperwork.
"We don't love arresting people, it's not exactly fun for us either," Engle said. "DUIs are the worst, as far as being the least level of crime with the most paperwork ... especially when you're brand new, it takes a long time to write reports because they're extremely technical."
Engle plans to be done with his degree after this next summer semester. In addition to online classes and a full work schedule, Engle and his wife have a 4-year-old, a 1-year old and another on the way. He said balancing work, school and family is the most challenging part of his busy life.
"My wife gets very sick when she's pregnant, so I can't ask her to take on all of the household load, too," Engle said. "She's a pretty amazing woman, but that's a lot to ask, when you're feeling sick all the time."
Engle said he and his wife enjoy the western part of the state and may end up there someday, but for now they're happy to stay in his hometown.
"You couldn't ask for a better community to raise kids," he said. "The education system is great, people are generally very reasonably and task-oriented, and ... we just love it here."