A Fort Collins police officer ticketed three students for underage drinking this weekend after approaching a stopped RamRide vehicle for a possible minor traffic violation.
The students were stopped at a RamRide drop-off point early Sunday morning southwest of CSU's campus, and were given alcohol-consumption tickets, a police official confirmed Wednesday.
The incident has incensed one of the students, who believed the Associated Students of CSU-sponsored safe-ride program was supported by the police.
"I feel completely disrespected and taken advantage of as a college student at CSU," said Stephanie Gibbs, one of the riders. "I couldn't believe it was happening. I took RamRide home because it was a safe ride home."
Officer Todd Hopkins told RamRide driver Brian Hardouin, the director of the program, that he had never heard of RamRide.
This officer is not the only Fort Collins Police Services employee who is unaware of RamRide, said police spokesperson Rita Davis.
"Some people in the department are aware of the program, some are not. Apparently the officer involved was one who was unaware of the program," Davis said. She said she was also unaware of RamRide's existence
However, Hardouin said he assumed that RamRide's existence was known throughout the department at this point, considering how much involvement the department had with RamRide's creation.
"We had to work with CSU and Fort Collins police departments," Hardouin said. "At the beginning of the year we worked with Fort Collins PD on the risk management at Hughes Stadium, and had RamRide at the stadium. We assumed that it had filtered down through the department. I was not aware they didn't know about it."
In addition to Hardouin saying he thought the police knew about RamRide, Police Chief Dennis Harrison was on the CSU Alcohol Task Force made a recommendation to CSU President Larry Penley in early October regarding RamRide. Recommendation 3.7 stated the task force would "support RamRide policy changes in order to append and enhance the service for Colorado State students and to secure it long term," according to the task force's Web site
In response, Davis said it is for difficult for all members of an organization to know what their leader's stance is on all issues, using the analogy that not all members of the CSU community know exactly where Penley stands on all issues.
At approximately 2:46 a.m. Sunday, the police officer noticed a vehicle pulled over at a no-parking red curb near 1100 W. Swallow Road. While the vehicle was pulled over to allow passengers to exit, the officer pulled behind the vehicle and approached the car.
The officer came up to the car because it was parked illegally, and when the officer noticed an individual "slumped over" in the back seat, he approached the driver's side window, Davis said.
"I rolled down the window, and the officer began to inquire about who was in the car, if I knew them personally," Hardouin said. "I told the officer that I didn't know the people in the car, because I was driving for RamRide. The officer said he did not know what RamRide was and began to question the individuals in the car."
Gibbs, a political science major, said the officer inquired if anyone in the car had been drinking.
"I had no reason to lie, so I said yes to the cop, that I had been drinking," she said. "He then asked us if we had ID, if we were of legal drinking age. He was also worried about my friend in the backseat who had had too much to drink."
The police officer then requested that Gibbs' friend exit the vehicle to perform a few maneuvers in order to prove he was not in any medical distress and did not need medical attention, Davis said.
After concluding the individual's welfare was not in danger, the officer proceeded to issue Gibbs and the two other passengers minor in possession of alcohol citations, Davis said. Gibbs said there was no alcohol in the vehicle.
The two other ticketed individuals declined an interview after speaking with legal counsel.
RamRide is a program that has been providing safe, nonjudgmental rides for CSU students since its inception in October 2003, according to RamRide's Web site. RamRide will only provide a ride back to a person's home; it never will transport a person to a party, bar or club.
Although Davis said some officers do not know about RamRide, ASCSU Vice President Ben Goldstein feels that Fort Collins police and RamRide official have a "great working relationship."
"They really support the program through and through," said Goldstein, who was ASCSU director of student services last year.
Despite a lack of awareness about the RamRide program, Davis said FCPS fully supports the idea of a safe-ride program.
"We support the concept of RamRide fully, but that does not give people immunity from the law regarding underage drinking," Davis said.