"Hey!" the emergency room nurse yells out as Sgt. Don Bird walks by the admitting desk on a recent morning patrol.

"Are you going to play Dick Tracy today and figure out who slashed the tires on that Audi out front?""What car? Where? Yeah, OK. We'll check it out," Bird replies, waving and giving a friendly "good morning" smile to the doctors, lab workers and other administrative staff behind the desk at University Hospital's emergency room.

"We have to earn it every day," Bird says, tongue-in-cheek, just out of earshot from the medical personnel. "And so do they."

"It" is respect, the 20-year veteran from the University of Utah Police Department implies a number of times.

Mall security and rent-a-cops need not apply for a position with the U. Police Department.

"We're all POST certified," Bird explains, referring to the 13-week Peace Officer Standards and Training that men and women in law-enforcement go through at the police academy.

Additionally, U. cops spend six weeks in field training and evaluation, plus 40 hours of in-service training. To top it off, they're sworn into office before the Utah Supreme Court.

"Yet so many people think all we're good for is lock-outs, car-jumps and directing traffic for the games."

And even if a lot of an officer's time is spent doing just that, there is another side to the U.'s police force.

"Did you know we sweep for bombs before every game?" Bird offers, explaining that every inch of the 15,100-seat Huntsman Center is scoped out for the potential of a terroristic threat. Bird, with FBI bomb school training underneath his belt, personally sees to that duty, rotating the job with two other officers.

The department is also made up of patrol divisions, investigations and a narcotics team.

At the emergency room, Bird meets up with Cpl. Joe Raccuia, one of two full-time university security officers assigned to the U. of U. Health Sciences Center. Raccuia has been there 11 years and has seen a lot.

"This place is one of our biggest generators of confrontation," he says.

Increased gang activity in the city and county brings shooting victims to the medical center's ER on a regular basis. With the victims come friends, other gang members and oftentimes rivals.

"We've had to install bullet-proof glass, reinforce the walls and really be on top of things here when they show up, and they do show up," Raccuia says.

But it's not just warring gang factions that security teams have to pay attention to at the hospital. Many people come in suffering from intense substance abuse.

"One time there was this 300-pound boxer in here, high as a kite. The two guards were like 240 (pounds), 250 each," Raccuia recalled. "So this guy picks them up like nothing and rams them into the wall. That was fun."

While Bird and Raccuia talk about the coming day's events, a psychiatric patient in her 40s waits for a doctor to visit her for a check-up. Twice she comes out of a secured room and yells she has to see someone now.

"Just another day," Raccuia says to Bird, after calming the woman down and assuring her a doctor was on the way. Five minutes later, a practitioner is escorted into the room as Raccuia sits next to the door, peering into the door's window every so often to make sure things are going well.

Outside, Bird heads over to an emergency room patient parking stall and determines the gold Audi Quattro with two flat passenger-side tires is not a result of petty vandalism. More likely poor road conditions.

"It looks like they're slashed, but whoever came driving into this lot came in flat. See the tire marks from the rims? Probably flat from the Grand Canyon potholes out there."

Dick Tracy solves another case.

"We have so many unique opportunities at the U.," Bird comments as he drives around the southeast part of the 1,425-acre campus, past the Medical Plaza Towers toward the Red Butte Gardens and Arboretum.

"We get everything up here, you wouldn't believe the wildlife. . . . We had cougars on the loading dock of the hospital over there, and a month ago there was one at the (Biomedical) Polymers (Research) Building.

"We've had moose, and especially deer by the tons," Bird said. "There was a time in '93 when the snows were so heavy that there were five or six traffic accidents a day because of them."

The talk then turns to students.

"There has been a big, good change in the fraternities and sororities in the past 10 years," Bird says. "The fraternity council has determined to allow alcohol, but the houses have to comply with state laws, which means if more than 60 people are in a house, they have to hire an officer from our department to be at the party.

"It's not so much to put the clamp on, but instead to protect them. It really has toned down a lot. It's a matter of them knowing the rules, that there are noise ordinances, certain hours to abide by."

Bird says a lot of the "toning down" can be traced to a Salt Lake ordinance regarding Greek parties. It requires a two-officer roving police patrol in the Greek house area between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. each Friday and Saturday during the academic year.

And because Greek Row falls under Salt Lake City jurisdiction, university officers work jointly with Salt Lake police in patrolling activities and working in other areas of campus that share city boundaries.

"Now we'll really be working closely with the city as we gear up for the Olympics," Bird says. "At this stage, security is almost unfathomable, but I'm excited for it. And as a bomb tech, I pretty well know what I'm going to be doing.

"We'll be responsible for security at the two main attraction venues, the Olympic Village and the opening and closing ceremonies at the stadium, so we're going to have to drill for several emergency scenarios, including fire, ambulance and ER rooms."

In Atlanta, just for security there will be 800 officers, Bird estimates.

"They'll be pulling officers from all over the country and the world, as well as the federal officers who'll be involved with each VIP, distinguished guest and dignitary."

Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee members are hoping to get about $30 million for security in the 2002 Winter Games, with a large portion coming from the federal government.

Later, after stopping for lunch, Bird stops to notice some fresh graffiti on the restaurant's lunch special banner. "That's new," he says.

"You know, we've never had a homicide," Bird says in between bites of sweet and sour chicken. "I feel very fortunate this has never happened. We've had 20 arsonists, and you know, one rapist who targets this campus could change the way people look at us.

"So we have to operate as a unique entity, especially where the medical school and the hospital are concerned," he says. "Most of the professors and faculty are world-renowned in their sphere and we have to keep that in mind. We have to train our people with the idea that these people are important and so is their work."

After lunch, Bird maneuvers in and out of the myriad of campus parking lots, calling the work "passive and high-profile."

"We practice sort of a selective law up here, even if some claim that might not be the best way," he said. "For example, if someone jaywalks instead of using the crosswalk, I will definitely write it up, and it can get pretty pricey.

"It's really a no-brainer, because there is such a potential for injury with that. On the other hand, if someone is speeding a little bit, I might just pull them over and warn them. The challenge is you don't know what you're going to come up against."

And you can't dwell on others' negative attitudes, Bird says.

"I hate getting sucked into a situation and reacting to them, the way they want you to react. That's the hard part - staying normal."