Why CMC has 8 more officers on campus: Conversation with administration about campus policing

Halfway through the first semester, a lot of students still have questions about the new officers on campus. The Dean of Students office hired a new branch of security officers: eight public safety personnel solely dedicated to the CMC community.

The 2018 Fall Semester marks the initial rollout of this program, which inevitably comes with a few growing pains. The Forum addressed the concerns of CMC students with Vice President of Student Affairs Sharon Basso and Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Dianna Graves.

Why Implement Public Safety Officers?

Basso described the new program as a supplement to existing Campus Safety staff. The new officers will provide “proactive, preventative community policing” by getting to know students on a personal basis and being very familiar with the CMC campus environment. Students can expect to encounter public safety officers either in person or if a call is made to the campus safety dispatch while on CMC’s campus.

Basso emphasized that public safety will focus primarily on everyday preventative measures, such as petty theft. If a number of bikes were stolen from the same location, public safety officers would then have prior knowledge of the trend and would be able to develop proactive interventions. “When we tried to do that in the past,” Basso said, “Campus Safety just didn’t have the personnel bandwidth because they’re spread out between seven campuses.”

Additionally, Basso said that a primary motive in hiring new officers was to add another layer of familiarity to authority figures on campus. “We have such a relational campus where students, faculty, and staff build relationships. DOS knows a lot of the students personally. Our thinking was that if we could find a small team of security professionals— one or two per shift— that are here on our campus, know our students and our policies, it could be helpful. We know that students have already been approaching our officers saying ‘Hey, I’m locked out. Hey, can you assist me?’ It’s about having folks on campus that know our students.”

Brian Weir, Director of CMC Public Safety, echoed a similar sentiment at Senate last week when he stated that Public Safety’s main goal for the first month was to familiarize student with the team. Weir emphasized the importance of this initiative because students will be more likely to listen to and reach out to figures that they’re comfortable with. Should the success of this initiative be measured by the number of medical calls made, then Toga Party showed the shortcomings of this relationship: Weir expressed disappointment in the high number of drinking related incidents, reiterating that his door is open to students 24/7.

Considering CMC’s unique social culture within the Claremont Consortium, DOS staff also criticized Campus Safety’s baseline approach to managing parties. For larger scale events in the past, ASCMC would contract out to a private security team for additional support. These officers were unhelpful in that they weren’t familiar with CMC’s policies and the students themselves.

However, the new role of public safety officers introduces a potentially fraught dynamic with students. Personally engaging with students while proactively promoting “student safety” can lead to selective rule enforcement that may favor those more well known. To prevent this, DOS plans to host a meet and greet event with the officers in the near future.

Public Safety Officers and Parties

In regards to proactive policing, when asked how far these procedures are meant to extend into private socialization, such as the public safety officers shining flashlights into the crowds outside the apartments on the evening of 6:01, Dean Basso said that she was unaware that this had occurred.

“The proactive part is not an emphasis on enforcement,” she said. “Brian Weir, Director of CMC Public Safety, promotes a philosophy of protecting student safety as the top priority.” When asked about how this ethos has played out thus far, Basso responded: “So far, so good. We’re learning all the time. We had great conversations and feedback from RAs and Senate recently. Students will see our CMC Public Safety officers more than they saw campus safety officers in the past because they are dedicated to only CMC’s campus.”

Graves encouraged students to speak to Weir, who has an office in DOS, if they want to discuss an encounter with public safety such as shining flashlights into crowds.

The efficacy of proactive policing for student safety hinges on mutual trust. DOS hopes that students will come to view the officers as friendly faces who respond on a first-name basis. The sudden emergence of public safety officers patrolling the campus throughout the day can be a bit jarring for returning students who had no prior encounters with campus officers. Basso stressed the necessity of public safety officers actively meeting students during the day in order to make students feel more comfortable with their presence at parties. With that being said, Basso reiterated that this is the first year with this new program, and that DOS is still trying to work out nuances.

So what does proactive policing mean in terms of student discipline? When I asked this question, Graves said that there wasn’t a single report filed at the apartments during 6:01. In terms of the officers’ roles during parties, Graves stated that “it’s more just keeping an eye on them, making sure we’re in that mode where we aren’t afraid for people.”

While 6:01— one of the largest events of the year, had 15 officers on duty— students can expect to see two or three officers patrolling areas where the majority of students are congregated until 3 a.m.

Public safety is primarily tasked with maintaining what is deemed a safe crowd size when it comes to party enforcement. For example, Basso said that during the first Thursday night of the year, a few gatherings on Green swelled to about 150 students, while attendance at TNC, the ASCMC sponsored party, was sparse. Dean Basso said that unregistered parties with over 20 individuals aren’t allowed by school policy.

“If it stays this big, we have to dissipate it; you can register it next time,” Basso said. “Public safety went to say that and got some pushback. I happened to be on campus so I went over and did it.” She also emphasized that the officers are not making up rules, but rather enforcing pre-existing ones: “They’re observing and rectifying in the moment and passing it onto us.”

Students have also aired their grievances about public safety’s more aggressive stance on e-cigarettes, such as Juuls. Many found themselves kicked out of 6:01 for having a device on hand or had it confiscated on sight by public safety officers. Graves stated that CMC is not officially a smoke-free campus but its events are, even if they are outside.

“Juuls in 6:01-- not okay and we do confiscate them,” Graves said. “We have smoke free residence halls and buildings so you need to remove yourself from those spaces. If you’re a smoker, you can smoke on campus. You just can’t do it in your hall and you need to be in more of an open space away from buildings where it can dissipate.”

Official event spaces and residence halls are smoke-free environments, which extend to student registered parties. If you are outside or even inside your residential hall with a smoking device, public safety officers are empowered to intervene. Graves noted that some students went to the middle of Parent’s Field to smoke cigarettes during 6:01, which was allowed so long as their cigarette butts weren’t left on the grass.

An Overly Policed Campus?

I also touched on the concern of student comfort. What may feel like an overly policed campus can have an adverse impact on some students, particularly those from non-white backgrounds. Basso said that DOS was looking for a diverse group of officers who wanted to build relationships with a diverse student body.

“If they wanted to bust people’s chops, this wasn’t the job for them,” she said. “We screened over 100 candidates for the eight positions and conducted interviews for that purpose: to figure out which candidates truly wanted to work with a college student population and in a college environment. Secondly, we wanted to make sure that the folks we brought on board were broadly representative of diverse populations and also understood the importance of a welcoming campus climate. We hired the best and they went through a bunch of training, two weeks solid, which included a range of sessions including diversity and inclusion, learning the campus geography, interfacing with campus safety’s team, and standard safety and security professional training.”

Basso and Graves view trust as a two-way street. They expect students to actively reach out to officers, whether that be simply saying waving hello or having an intimate conversation. In return, officers will treat students with personable respect.

If students have any concerns, they should reach out to Brian Weir in the Dean of Students office.