Larry Hoffman Discusses the Role of Public Safety Officers in regards to Emergency Procedures

 Yonkers police have been working with SLC to keep the campus safe from harassers.  J. McFarland '16.

Yonkers police have been working with SLC to keep the campus safe from harassers. J. McFarland '16.

To keep SLC community members safe, the Yonkers police department  has placed two empty police cars on Kimball road. Some doubt the effectiveness of these cars, saying that they put SLC students in danger by giving them a false sense of security. Students may, in an emergency, look to these cars for help when, in fact, no help is there. 

Sarah Lawrence students are in contact with Public Safety every day. Whether in the back of a shuttle, in the Hill House lobby late at night, or at the scene of a party, the security team is there to both help students out when in trouble and uphold the rules of the school—even if that means delivering a ticket. At a school where students live where they work, Public Safety makes sure that the boundary between personal and professional is never crossed in an unsafe or illegal way. Not all situations, however, are manageable by Public Safety, so local emergency medical responders or law enforcement (depending on the type of situation) must step in.

The line between security’s duty and the police department’s jurisdiction can be blurry at times. “I feel like I would use 911 only if I were in immediate danger or something,” said Betsy Applebaum (’17). “For most other situations, I would call them first, and if security thought a problem was serious enough then I would call 911.” 

Sam Oshins (’17) shared a similar view, saying, “If there is an event on campus in which the student is in immediate and extreme danger, then calling the police is always the correct response.”  

To answer tricky questions of jurisdiction, it is helpful to understand what rights and abilities police officers and emergency medical respondents have that Campus Security does not. “SLC security officers do not have police or peace officer powers,” answered SLC’s Director of Public Safety and Security Larry Hoffman, “They therefore do not possess any ‘arrest or detaining powers’ beyond that of an ordinary citizen.” 

In New York, private security personnel have the right to make a citizen’s arrest. SLC’s security officers share that right: “Once a citizen’s arrest is made, the local police would need to be called as soon as possible,” Hoffman said. 

Some situations can be too dangerous for students or security officers to handle alone. A recent event in the Campbell Sports Center sparked conversation regarding potentially dangerous persons on campus.

Hoffman confirmed that, in the case of an immediate threat to student safety, “Security officers must take action if an individual is an immediate threat/danger to others or themselves. This usually involves calling the authorities via 911. They would keep the individual and others safe until emergency personnel arrive. ” 

The answer to whether students should call Public Safety or 911 for help is both: “In an emergency situation we encourage all members of the college community to call 911 and public safety (914-395-2222). As soon as public safety is notified of an emergency on campus, we will station a patrol vehicle at Kimball Avenue and Glen Washington Road to meet responding emergency personnel in order to bring them directly to the site of the emergency,” Hoffman explained. “In situations in which [security is] not notified, emergency personnel waste precious time looking for the on campus location. In addition, since security personnel have AED’s and medical kits in their vehicles, it is critical that our specially trained officers get to the scene of a medical emergency as soon as possible.” 

Though campus security aims to keep us safe, Wyatt Rocheleau (’16) feels safe for different reasons: “Compared to where I live I definitely feel safer on campus than back home, but I wouldn’t say I feel safer here because of campus security,” he admitted, “more I feel safer because of the intermediate community surrounding our school. Being in Bronxville, I can’t see myself running into anything crazy other than maybe a car driving by on Kimball yelling something at me.”

Though the community surrounding SLC is relatively safe, Public Safety prepares for any emergency situation. Despite any misconceptions that SLC students may have, campus security can do a lot, and, especially in the case of a medical emergency, can be the first responders: “Security officers have saved lives by administering CPR and shocking people back to live,” Hoffman said.

Sophomore class president Bennett Dougherty (‘17) is a big supporter of campus security, and supported this partnership with law enforcement.

“I love campus security,” Dougherty said. “I know that the two empty cop cars have raised concern among certain students, but honestly I think they’re good because they’re speeding traps that make drivers reduce their speed.” In the presence of these security precautions, there has been concern as to whether SLC community members are prepared to handle true emergencies. 

In fact, “Students are trained for emergencies by various means,” Hoffman countered. “They receive both public safety and fire safety training during orientation. Regular fire drills are conducted throughout the year. The college emails students emergency protocols at the beginning of each academic year. RA’s also speak about emergency procedures with their advisees.”

The relationship between campus security and students, either as a whole or individuals, can seem tense at times; however, officers have been encouraged to approach students this year in a more friendly manner. 

Each August, all security officers receive training on Public safety procedures. Though training on smooth interactions with students has always been included in the curriculum, recent student feedback stressing the importance of Security’s approach brought about new changes. Security personnel now use sentences like, “How are you doing today?” before advancing to, “Is that a beer?” 

Potentially antagonistic relationships between Public Safety personnel and students exists, though their goal remains, “to serve and protect the members of the college community in the best way possible.”

by Wade Wallerstein '17 and Julia Schur '15
Editor-in Chief and Managing Editor
wwallerstein@gm.slc.edu and jschur@gm.slc.edu