It was midnight after the Ole Miss vs. LSU football game, and Sgt. Alex Moffett, who leads the team of eight officers tasked with keeping the Square safe every weekend, spotted a college-aged man holding two bottle openers in his hands.
The man was on a Facetime call as he walked past Moffett. “I took both of them,” he said during the call.
It took a few seconds for Moffett to realize what he’d seen: someone who likely stole the bottle openers from a bartender.
“Hey bud, where’d you get those?” Moffett asked. The man turned, going from laughing to silent, and said that he’d gotten them from the Cellar.
Moffett placed his hand on the student’s back and led him to the bar. As he was escorted down the stairs, bottle openers in his hand, bouncer Steven Cooke laughed, saying, “Where’d they come from? The bartenders were missing some!”
“Go home,” Moffett said to the man after he returned the bottle openers.
What might have seemed like a notable interaction for the student was just another typical interaction for Moffett, who has been on the force since 2013.
He and the other officers work the night shift on the Square every weekend, and he often tells his team that they should talk to the public “like you’re talking to your mother.”
For weekends like the LSU game, when Moffett expects big crowds and lots of drunken shenanigans, he requests an extra dispatcher and more on-duty officers.
There were 26 officers working the Square alone on Saturday night, and they stayed busy: someone had four of their front teeth knocked out, two brothers ran from officers for possessing fake IDs, and a fight broke out between a bouncer and a customer in an alley.
OPD arrested 60 people on the Square, including one student who “mooned” a group of girls in a bar shortly after Moffett handled the bottle opener thief.
Moffett had been standing outside the Safe Site tent, which he hopes will increase community interaction, when he heard about that particularly unusual arrest.
“Dude!” one of the officers said to Moffett, laughing. “He pulled his pants down and showed his tail!”
“Yeah,” Moffett chuckled, “You gotta keep your britches on.”
This hands-on approach to policing is what Moffett and his unit call community policing: from helping students get rides home from the Square to providing a location for information, Moffett and his officers work Wednesday to Saturday — 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. — patrolling the Square.
At around 8 p.m., one LSU student approached Moffett, complaining of nausea and asking for an ambulance. The EMTs checked his vitals, and his blood pressure was 176/111. A normal blood pressure is less than 120/80.
The man left the ambulance and came back to find Moffett again at around 10 p.m. for the same reason. This time, Moffett made sure he got to the hospital.
Moffett said having the same team work the busy nights on the Square is more efficient than switching officers each week. This rapport is important on a night like Nov. 16, when an estimated 53,797 people visited Oxford to watch Ole Miss play LSU.
For Moffett, who said he cares for his officers like family, trusting them is easy, even on nights like this.
Officer Johnny Sneed runs the Safe Site tent, where he and his partner often play cornhole with students. According to Sneed, the officers have a record of 162 wins to seven losses.
“As a supervisor, I try to be as hands-on as possible, but sometimes you just have to trust your guys,” Moffett said.