PULLMAN – Behind the red double doors of room 96, two officers flanked an intoxicated young man.
“Who’s the president?” one officer asked.
“Obama,” the man slurred.
“Is Mickey Mouse a dog or a cat?”
Beneath the stands of cheering fans, room 96 of Washington State University’s Martin Stadium serves as a temporary waypoint for disorderly and intoxicated visitors. Each game, about 15 people are processed, often to be booted from the game and released, according to WSU police Officer Joseph Kirshner. In extreme cases, they are turned over to local police.
Kirshner has manned the room for more than six years, and is responsible for filing an incident report for each person who comes through the red doors. He also checks the names of the people brought in to see if they have an existing arrest warrant.
The officers regularly see people detained for fights, verbal abuse and domestic violence. But the most common reason fans pass through room 96 is alcohol, Kirshner said.
With the possible sale of alcohol in Martin Stadium under consideration, some law enforcement officials worry about an increase in alcohol-related incidents, including underage drinking. Policing a stadium of 35,000 makes for a full night of work for the officers on duty, said Steve Hansen, WSU’s assistant police chief.
“With the number of students in there under the age of 21,” Hansen said, “that can be a pretty daunting task.”
Kirshner said he has mixed emotions about the sales, which would generate profit for WSU’s athletics department.
“Obviously alcohol is here, but the university isn’t making a profit,” he said. “So why not make a profit? But it sends a bad message because WSU is a dry campus, and we’d be selling alcohol on campus.”
For tonight’s game against USC, officials are preparing for a busy night in the processing room.
There’s nothing particularly unpleasant about room 96. Water bottles and hot chocolate mix sit on a table. A large flat-screen TV sits in the corner, showing football games from across the country. Though not “cozy,” the room provides a refuge for officers from the extreme conditions they may face in the stands above.
Each game, 20 officers patrol the stadium looking for people who are causing a disturbance, Kirshner said.
At the Saturday game against Nevada, only two people were “processed.”
One girl sat on the bench in handcuffs, crying as the officers asked for her name and age.
“When is your birthday?” one asked.
“Twenty-first,” she mumbled.
“Of what month?”
“And what year?”
A half-hour later, officers brought in a young man who appeared drunk. A breathalyzer found his blood-alcohol content to be three times the legal limit for driving.
An officer told the man, who was underage, that he was under arrest for minor-in-possession. He was handed a slip of paper banning him from the stadium for the rest of the day. Then he was escorted from the stadium and released.
Kirshner said people are typically processed within 45 minutes to an hour, often waiting for someone to come help them get home. If the person is being violent, or they have a warrant out for their arrest, Pullman police may be called to take them to a cell.
For students, each detention also results in a notice to the Office of Student Conduct. Kirshner said he has seen repeat offenders coming through the room on an almost weekly basis. There is no limit to the number of times a person can be detained, and even frequent visitors might not be permanently expelled from the stadium, he said.
The officers are looking for people who present a risk to themselves or others.
“We only pick the low-hanging fruit,” Hansen said. “The ones that are really, obviously coming in (drunk).”
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