We bring you the following story as a public service—for journalists, college students, and everyone else. Take the experience of Tim Chapman, former editor of James Madison University's student newspaper, as a lesson: Cops are not your drinking buddies.
Chapman, who we imagine is a fine and upstanding young man and an intrepid journalist to boot, was off enjoying himself during the Springfest weekend when something happened that would disillusion him forever. Here, Tim explains, in an apology letter to his old paper, what his mistake was:
I was standing on the hill near the Texaco gas station with a friend when I recognized a Harrisonburg Police officer who had assisted my roommate and my brother when they were victims of a crime in October. I have been a reporter for more than four years and being naturally inquisitive, I approached this officer to casually talk about what was going on. I should have known that this was not the best time, even though I had friendly conversations with officers earlier in the day. The officer didn't recognize me and had me arrested for failing to disperse. I was not aware at the time that people were being forced to leave the area.
I am 22 years old and had partaken in a few alcoholic beverages during the afternoon. I was charged with public intoxication because my blood alcohol content was a .08. I was by no means out of control and was simply trying to speak with an officer in a friendly manner.
1. Never try to make friends with a cop;
2. Especially when you're drunk.