History of Community Safety, Current Concerns
A Quest article from 1960 reported that Reed’s Community Safety Officers (CSOs), who were then called nightwatchmen, were once again being “obnoxious,” and that “the only real purpose the nightwatchmen serve (since their protection value is virtually nil) is letting girls into dorms after hours, and for this we need only one of them.” Since the ‘60s, Reed may have become less sexist, but many students still believe that CSOs are solely good for unlocking the doors of forgetful students. Recently, there has been concern among students who expressed worry that the CSOs are becoming increasingly militarized. With this in mind, let’s take a step back to understand how we arrived to the current state of CSOs on campus.
The first nightwatchman was hired in the late 1930s following a violent attack on Winifred Ayres, an assistant in the History Department who lived in Anna Mann, the women’s-only dorm at the time. The attacker, according to a Quest article published at the time, disguised himself as a woman to sneak into the dorm and attacked Ayres with a milk bottle. Following the brutal attack, the Reed student body voted to impose an 11 p.m. curfew on women and tasked a custodian with the job of “nightwatchman”—unlocking doors to let women back into their dorms after hours.
The nightwatchmen continued up until the mid ‘70s, when the U.S. government started taking a closer look at student safety and substance use on college campuses. As a result, Reed’s nightwatchmen became the more formal institution of “Community Safety.” The task of Community Safety further expanded when later, under the direction of Bill Clinton, colleges were required to implement drug and alcohol policies in order to receive federal funding. With the college’s standing as an institution for higher learning in question, Reed developed the Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Policy in the ‘90s. Gary Granger, Director of Community Safety, emphasized the need to implement these new policies in a recent interview with the Quest, saying, “if you want money from the feds, you need to do this.”
Granger came to direct Reed’s CSO program in 2010, arriving after two Reed students overdosed on heroin. In a meeting with then-President Colin Diver at the time, the two decided to start enforcing the AOD policy as it had been written in the ‘90s. “What changed when I got here is that we began to implement the policy as written,” Granger said.
At the time, students tried to cajole Granger, to no avail, into maintaining the blind eye previous CSOs had afforded them. Granger made it clear that he would not be as lenient, saying to the Quest, “I’m a professional and I have a code of ethics for my profession. My profession doesn’t allow me to pretend that things are not happening that aren’t supposed to happen. I am here to enforce the college’s policy as well as to keep you safe.”
With the reality of the enforced AOD policy beginning to sink in, some students expressed concern to Granger that their peers suffering from an alcohol or drug related medical emergency would not contact a CSO or ask for help. In response to this, Granger implemented the Medical Amnesty Policy in 2011. Currently 13 percent of Reed students receive an AOD a year, with only 3.25 percent of students getting a second AOD in the same year.
In addition to enforcing the AOD Policy, Granger took steps to make the CSOs more approachable. Historically, CSOs and campus watchmen wore some variety of polo shirts and slacks. In the early 2000s, the various directors of Community Safety made the uniforms more official by introducing a navy shirt and navy pants uniform reminiscent of the police force. In the last nine years, Granger has taken steps to demilitarize the uniform by introducing beige pants and lighter blue tops as options for CSOs to wear. He also allows his officers the choice of using a shoulder bag to carry all of their equipment rather than an intimidating duty belt, with 50 percent of active CSOs currently choosing this option.
Despite the recent efforts to make CSOs appear less intimidating, many students still express concern about the practices of Community Safety, taking to Reed Facebook groups to air their grievances. In response to questions about the militarization of Community Safety, Granger told the Quest, “If there is something specific that people can say looks really militarized, I’d love to know, because impressions are important to me in terms of how students perceive us. I don’t want us to appear militaristic.”
Perhaps the problem, however, is not necessarily militarization, but repeated occurrences of negative interactions with students. Already this year, students have experienced mistreatment and unresponsiveness from CSOs. Claire Stevens ‘19, after being accosted by an aggressive non-community male, tried to report this to 28 West, where CSO Rick responded insensitively and “invalidated” her story. Stevens wrote on Facebook, “He immediately began telling me everything I did wrong in the situation … and refused to let me explain what had happened, aggressively drilling me on why I waited to call the police.” Stevens went on, “The way Rick responded to my situation is the reason people don’t report situations like this; they’re made to feel like they are at fault, like it wasn’t a big deal, and often are passed off.”
In a less extreme instance, CSOs failed to notify another student that the windows of their car, which had been parked in west parking for over a week, were open. Last year, comments in Reed Facebook groups referred to “racist remarks” made by a CSO, and another CSO refused to drive an injured community member to receive treatment for a broken ankle.
The demilitarization that Granger has implemented is a positive change, but like Reed’s response to the assault of Ayres, it may not address the actual problem.