1,032: number of calls
received by Public Safety from people locked out of campus
61: number of Public Safety responses to medical emergencies
11: number of unusual odors on campus investigated by officers.
457: number of times Public Safety has provided rides for
22: number of stolen items recovered by Public Safety.
In the course of a typical year,
these numbers reflect only a fraction of the ways in which
Smith’s 18 full-time Public Safety officers might spend
their shifts: letting a distraught student into her house,
responding to calls for help, keeping the campus safe.
With at least three officers
on shift 24 hours a day, patrolling every section of the campus,
the Department of Public Safety maintains an environment that
is vastly safer than that beyond Smith’s boundaries.
While every Smith officer, as
a requirement for hire, completes a 16-week training course
at the Special State Police Academy and each holds full powers
to arrest perpetrators, most of their duties involve helping
people. Each officer is also trained in emergency medical
response and CPR.
“These officers are trained
as well or better than your hometown cops,” says Scott
Graham, assistant director of Public Safety, now in his 24th
year in the department. “The days of security guards
are long gone.”
Though Smith’s Public Safety
officers may not encounter criminals as often as a city police
officer might, they take their jobs just as seriously and
recognize that a college setting poses its own challenges.
For example, they know that thousands
of parents, many of them thousands of miles away, send their
children to Smith with the expectation that they will be watched
over and kept safe. And providing safety for a campus with
more than 3,000 people (including those occupying the college’s
rental properties) during the academic year can be stressful.
“Every shift at every point
can have a crisis,” says Graham, “medical or otherwise.
There are some moments when your adrenaline gets going. It
doesn’t matter what shift it is.”
“Also,” adds Sharon
Rust, director of Public Safety, “we always have to
know what to do and why we’re doing it. We’re
Public Safety officers work in
four overlapping eight-hour shifts. Their time is spent mostly
on patrol, either walking a beat in one of three campus zones
or driving the campus’ roads in the cruiser and responding
to crises as they occur. One officer is always stationed at
the office front desk.
Because Public Safety officer
deal primarily with a student population, the types of crises
they encounter remain consistent. “We deal with the
same age group, 18 to 22, over and over again,” notes
Graham. “The challenges here are the same as you’d
find with that age group anywhere.”
The number of arrests made by
officers is relatively small, perhaps a couple a month. More
often, their jobs involve removing unwanted guests from campus,
checking out fire alarms (more than 100 a year), responding
to medical emergency calls and investigating reports of suspicious
persons or activity on campus.
Community outreach is an important
part of Public Safety’s mandate, and the department
holds several educational sessions during the year. Two officers
conduct self-defense training for students. Rust and Graham
hold a periodic orientation for new students and staff. Officers
will also conduct small seminars in student houses and will
schedule special meetings by request. “We’re as
much [a part] of the educational process as any other office
on campus,” says Graham. “We are educators.”
As with all jobs, some parts
of the year are more fraught with tension than others. The
high-stress times for Public Safety personnel are the “big
weekends,” says Graham, such as opening and closing
weekends, those with big-name concerts, and -- one of the
busiest -- last month’s Halloween weekend, during
which Talbot House hosts its notorious “Immorality”
Despite the stresses of the job,
safe-guarding the college has its share of rewarding moments,
says Rust, such as when her department successfully recovered
tens of thousands of dollars worth of science equipment stolen
from Smith. “It was enjoyable to be able to return the
property stolen from the Science Center,” Rust says,
citing 15 high-tech microscopes that were recently recovered.
Getting to know students and
making friends with faculty and staff members is another benefit
to working at Smith, agree Rust and Graham, who between them
have served the college for nearly 50 years.
In a job that often goes unappreciated
by people in the community, Rust says a little recognition
goes a long way, and she and her colleagues take special note
when a staff or faculty member compliments them on a job well
“When a community member
recognizes what you’re doing, that you’re doing
good work for the campus and caring for the community that
you’re serving,” says Rust, “that’s
a rewarding part of the job.”