On the evening of Nov. 19, 2016, at 7:45 p.m. I made my way down to the Campus Safety office to participate in a ride-along. The ride-along program originated from the Campus Safety Advisory Committee’s initiative to increase transparency between campus safety and students. The ride-alongs allow students to join a trained officer on patrol and observe their daily routine. The program began in late October; since then, two students — Lindsey Ingram (sophomore) and Sebastian Salazar (first year) — have participated. Ingram and Salazar are both members of the Campus Safety Advisory Committee. The program is currently open to all students and ride-alongs can be scheduled upon request.
“Students wanted to know what Campus Safety did, what our policies are, what our procedures are,” Campus Safety Chief Victor Clay said. “There’s this disconnect between students and Campus Safety, you could just see it on this campus.”
At Campus Safety headquarters, I met Officer Aaron Nevels who had me fill out a waiver before escorting me to the Campus Safety car. As we got in, he explained that the shift he was on was the graveyard shift, 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Campus Safety’s activity log typically consists of unlocking doors, escorting students and assisting staff. Occasionally they receive calls about suspicious people.
“I thought it would be important to not just talk about the work our officers do, but have students actually experience it,” Clay said.
I joined Officer Nevels on Saturday night, an ordinarily hectic time for Campus Safety. Since many students were out of town for Thanksgiving break, it resembled a typical weekday night, assisting students in getting into certain buildings and escorting them home at night.
“I would say right now the majority of our calls will be from the library, from students who need a drive home from the library,” Nevels said. “Most weekday nights we’ll try to have everything locked down at 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, we try and get everything done before the parties start.”
For many students living off campus, the escort system allows students to be picked up and dropped off in a two-mile radius of Occidental’s campus, giving students the flexibility of working late without having to worry about a walk home in the dark.
“We just can’t drop you off at the bar. You can’t call us and say, ‘Hey I’m at Norris, can you drop me off at The York?’ If you see Occidental College Campus Safety pull up to the bar and five students jump out, it doesn’t look good,” Nevels said as he rounded the corner of York Blvd.
The patrol zone runs through campus, around the perimeter and circles the surrounding neighborhood streets, passing by student housing from Alumni Avenue to N. Ave. 54.
On the weekends, if parties are taking place at private residences not owned by the college, Campus Safety does not shut them down, nor do they call LAPD.
“If we know of a party, we’ll just drive around to make sure that everyone gets home, no one is passed out in the bushes. As long as everybody makes it home, we’re happy,” Nevels said.
The ride-alongs take place with a trained officer and are on a voluntary basis. They span a couple of hours to a full 10-hour shift, depending on interest and time commitment. Any student is available to participate in the program and further information will soon be published and available on the Campus Safety website.
“I came from traditional law enforcement and I thought, what could possibly go on here? You’d be amazed. There’s a lot going on here, we’re definitely busy. With this small little community, it’s busy,” Clay said.