Working in the Department of Housing and Residence Life Services as a Residence Manger I meet with students to discuss incidents that may have a negative impact on the community. Often times these incidents come to my attention in the form of a Campus Safety report from our partners over at the Department of University Safety (DUS). This got me thinking. What happens before I receive the report and who are the people that keep Carleton University safe?
My curiosity grew more and more and I became interested in seeing what happens prior to a safety report landing on my desk, or rather landing in my inbox. Wanting to connect with one of the major campus partners that we interact with on a regular basis I reached out to DUS to see if there were any opportunities to find out more about what they do. Turns out there was a way I could experience it for myself.
Starting around 8:00pm on a Thursday night I was, temporarily, welcomed as part of Patrol Team 1. I was able to watch in real time what it’s like to be a Safety Officer on campus. To start off the night, we patrolled campus parking lots, road ways and residence buildings. Along the way we encountered anything from suspicious behaviour, traffic stops, illegal activities and a fight at the campus bar. Looking at this list students might not be surprised that all of this and more occurs on campus, especially on a Thursday night. What is often overlooked are the positive interactions and encounters between Safety Officers and students. We were approached with questions about their role, about finding their way around campus, their experiences, and what education and skills were required to hold this job. Whether being asked general questions or explaining the process after being directly involved in an incident, officers engaged in supportive conversations with people on campus. It was great having a front row seat to see how approachable and patient the officers were and the willingness on behalf of the students to cooperate. This shift in perspective gave me a new found appreciation for what our officers do and how they support students during challenging times. I was able to draw parallels between the approach the officers take and our approach in Housing and Residence Life when connecting with students for conduct matters. Both take the form of an educational conversation where students are made aware of their negative impacts on the community and both rely on participation from the student as well as accountability on their end to follow through with the remaining steps. It was great to see how both departments value supporting and educating our students through difficult conversations.
One of the highlights of my experience was being able to witness the incredible teamwork and effective communication displayed among the team as a whole. Situations escalated quickly and each officer was aware of their position in relation to one another and the people of interest. There wasn’t a single moment of confusion or questioning one another’s role, everyone knew they had a job to do and they did it with true finesse and collaboration. This comradery should be celebrated and shared campus wide. With such an amazing team of Safety Officers, it’s no surprise that safety and security is the aspect of the student experience our residents are most satisfied with at Carleton University (EBI, 2015).
Thank you to all the Campus Safety Officers for keeping our campus safe especially Acting Staff Sergeant Mark Hargreaves for putting the wheels in motion and making this ride along possible and to Special Constable Ross Seager for letting me ride shotgun with him.