Student law enforcement is learning to keep the peace and earning college credit at the same time.
In the Campus Public Safety Department at Central Oregon Community College, students and law enforcement professionals work side by side to ensure a safe learning atmosphere for the COCC community.
“We’re committed to keeping the college community safe,” said Jim Bennett, public safety coordinator, “24 hours a day, five days a week.”
Seven active duty officers and five unpaid criminal justice cadets earning college credits patrol the campus beat throughout the week.
“[The cadets] have become an incredible resource for our department,” said Bennett. “It’s an excellent opportunity for criminal justice students to build their resume and gain experience.”
Bennett, who has worked in public service for 24 years, sees the function of the department as both a public service and an opportunity to learn.
“The majority of persons that come to work here are interested in law enforcement,” said Bennett. “This is a starting point for them.”
Before going into active status, every officer goes through a six to eight week basic academy training. Cadets are trained alongside active duty officers in the field, developing skills in report writing and investigation, as well as major incident strategies.
Dan Smith is a former Bend Police officer who works nights for Campus Public Safety at COCC, and also trains cadets.
“It’s a good stepping stone for sure,” said Smith, who himself was once a cadet at Bend Police Department, “I treat the cadets like I wanted to be treated. I let them get the full experience.”
Because officers are not allowed to carry weapons, a major emphasis in training is de-escalation tactics through verbal communication. This type of training translates well to other areas of the career, according to Smith.
“Talking to people is the number one thing in any law enforcement job,” Smith said. “Observing cues and body language is essential.”
Smith, who often patrols the campus by himself, takes his job seriously and sees it as a way to maintain his edge in law enforcement.
“It keeps the skills sharpened, keeps me as fresh as possible,” said Smith. “You’ve always got to be on it; anything can turn into a major incident.”
In addition to ongoing training, Campus Public Safety makes an effort to develop rapport with students by taking part in student outreach projects such as Jump Start and resident orientations at Juniper Hall, according to Bennett.
“I can’t emphasize enough the importance of a relationship with the college community,” said Bennett. “It is critical to providing services and crime prevention.”
This effort of ongoing training and college community outreach has led to a decline of major incidents from 2011 to 2012, according to Bennett.
“The response and prevention ratio is good,” Bennett said. “It’s a proactive department, and that’s due partly to the cadet program.”