Rohnert Park Sergeant addresses common student concerns

Sergeant Dave Sutter is one of the many police officers in Rohnert Park who are constantly trying to improve the relationship between the students and the community. Sutter is a long time police officer in Rohnert Park so he is well equipped to deal with situations that arise. The STAR was able to interview Sutter and ask him questions about himself and some questions students may be too afraid to ask.

STAR: If students are drinking who are under 21 years old and one of them shows signs of alcohol poisoning, will the other students get in trouble if they call 911 for drinking underage?

Sutter: “The simple answer is no. Many students are not familiar with Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety and our design. Our officers are trained in both police and fire disciplines and our interest is always in the safety of the students and the community. We strongly encourage students to call when they feel another student is intoxicated and unable to care for themselves. When our officers or fire crews respond, our focus is to help the student, not punish others for doing the right thing.”

STAR: Are police against Greek life? Do they target Greek life members?

Sutter: “Absolutely not. Many students I have spoken to think that Rohnert Park DPS officers drive around the town and ‘hunt’ for college parties in order to issue notices. This could not be more wrong. Our officers recognize that parties are going to occur and when someone calls to complain they respond and deal with each party according to the situation they find on arrival. They do not know who lives at which house or ‘target’ Greek students.

I have a very unique perspective on Greek Life. I was a member of an International Fraternity while attending California State University Sacramento. I truly understand the extremely positive impact that the Greek community has. Many of the Greek organizations participate in philanthropies which benefit the community and surrounding area. Being Greek is an amazing experience and allowed me to create many lifelong friendships. I always encourage each officer to meet every person with a positive and open attitude.”

STAR: Are the students of Rohnert Park a nuisance to the surrounding non-student life neighborhoods?

Sutter: “I would say ‘no,’ but the neighbor of a chronic party house would probably say ‘yes.’ It all depends on which person of the community you talk to. I have spoken to some who are extremely frustrated about living next to a ‘college house’ which is always filled with college students year to year.

On the other hand I had the ability to attend a community meeting where a homeowner in R Section took it upon herself to get her surrounding neighbors and three college houses together to talk about all kinds of different issues. The 32 participants talked about everything from parking to party calls. At the conclusion of the meeting, the overall message was for the neighbors to maintain open communication between each other and the shared respect for one another.”

STAR: What is your position on the board that helps improve student-community relations? What are the duties involved with that? What are the boards plans to help improve these issues?

Sutter: “Approximately two years ago I became a member of the Tri-Community Coalition which is comprised of representatives from all different groups. There are members form the County, Cotati Police Department, Sonoma State University Greek Life, Sonoma State University Police, Hills and Homes Property Management, City of Rohnert Park Code Enforcement and the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety.

Over the last 18 months, I have met with thousands of students. My mission is to reach out and improve the relationship between students and the community by allowing students to interact with me, a person not just a uniform. I have met students at their residences, local coffee shops, Greek meetings and other planned events.”

STAR: What are RPPD’s most frequent calls?

Sutter: “RPPDS’s calls vary on the day of the week and the time of the day. On the weekends our most frequent type of call is party complaints.” 

STAR: What are your thoughts on the actions of police officers being recorded?

Sutter: “Police Officers have been recorded for a long time now. As for my thoughts, I do not have an issue with officers being recorded on video by a citizen as long as they do not restrict an officer from performing their duties. I encourage all citizens to be respectful to our officers. We are there to protect you. Many students do not know that Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety Officers’ all wear body cameras to document incidents and encounters between offices and the public.”

STAR: DUIs can be a problem at many colleges, how can having a sober driver help student-police interactions?

Sutter: “Having a sober driver or safe ride home is important to figure out before going out. With the increasing number of Ubers, Taxi’s, Lyft and designated drivers, it is so easy to get home. CDC statistics show that every 53 minutes there is a death related to a motor vehicle crash involving an alcohol-impaired driver. I know that when I stop a vehicle and see that there is a sober driver getting others home safe it makes me happy that the students of SSU are being responsible and taking care for one another.” 

STAR: What are some of the signs of alcohol poisoning and when should students call 911?

Sutter: “Alcohol poisoning signs and symptoms include: confusion, vomiting, seizures, slow breathing, irregular breathing, blue-tinged skin or pale skin, low body temperature and passing out. The important thing to remember is that it is not necessary to have all the listed signs and symptoms before you seek medical help. Alcohol poisoning is an emergency. If you suspect that someone has alcohol poisoning – even if you don’t see the signs and symptoms – call 911. Don’t be afraid to get help. It can be difficult to decide if you think someone is drunk enough to warrant medical intervention, but it’s best to err on the side of caution.”

STAR: How does one file a police report?

Sutter: “It is easy to file a police report. You can file a report online or in person.” 

STAR: What other safety tips do you have for students both on and off campus?

Sutter: “There are many tips to staying safe while both on and off campus but the biggest is be don’t forget to stay safe and maintain awareness. Never take unnecessary risks, such as walking alone at night, leaving your doors unlocked or not knowing where you are going. My main rule… Watch out for one another.” 

STAR: Is there anything else you’d like to add or say to the readers of the STAR?

Sutter: “I am proud to be able to work with the students of Sonoma State University in building a better relationship between the Community, SSU and Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety. Over the last 18 months I have had the opportunity to meet and talk to approximately 3800 Sonoma State University students to answer questions and educated them about being responsible residents within the Community which they live in. I am proud to say that over the last 18 months we have seen a 50 percent reduction in party call complaints and it is solely due to the students of Sonoma State. 

My final advice [is] don’t procrastinate, grab at every opportunity, cherish every moment of college, live life to the fullest and always take care of others.”