Opinion: Response to “From Nightwatchmen to CSOs”

I have many types of privilege. I am a mostly-able-bodied, heterosexual, cis, white woman who is fortunate enough to have been born in this country, and to be employed in a job that pays me a living wage. I am privileged to be a graduate of this institution. That is a lot of privilege. I feel grateful when I think about my lot in life.

One privilege I don’t have is working in an environment where people would feel compelled to try to talk to me, or my boss, or Human Resources, about an interaction we had that went poorly before calling me out in a public forum.

Please don’t misunderstand me; I think Reed students, and the Quest, are well within their rights to examine the way Community Safety Officers (CSOs) do their work, and to provide a critique of that work. However, I also think it’s worth noting that there are many ways to hold someone accountable that don’t involve publicly shaming someone for their actions.

I know that because we wear uniforms it’s easy to think of Community Safety as a homogenous entity, rather than a collection of individuals who are each trying to do a good job every day we come to work. I know that because we have keys, and because we write reports, we do have a non-trivial amount of power on campus.

That being said, during the time that I’ve worked here, I’ve seen a student feel entitled to punch a CSO in the face (breaking a CSO’s orbital socket) because the CSO tried to stop that student from throwing punches at other students in a Doyle Owl fight. I’ve been working when a student head-butted a CSO in the teeth when they tried to break up a fight in a bathroom during an Student Union dance. Ask me if either student was denied the opportunity to graduate from Reed as a result of these assaults (they were both allowed to continue their studies here). Ask me if those CSOs still work here (no, they don’t).

It appears to me that some students feel comfortable venting frustrations they have with police officers on CSOs. It appears to me that some students feel comfortable venting frustration with college policies, federal laws, and actions the college administration has (or hasn’t) taken on CSOs.

When the individuals who become CSOs interview for this job, they express the desire to be part of a community and help keep that community safe. CSOs want to protect students. Does that mean we’re perfect? Of course not. We’re all human, and as such we all make mistakes. All we can do is try our best each day. If students want to talk to us about interactions that went poorly, and give us constructive feedback, we’re very open to that.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a CSO who made you uncomfortable, I understand that. Have you thought about talking to that CSO’s immediate supervisor? What about the Assistant Director of Community Safety? What about the Director? Or the Director’s boss (that’s Mike Brody. In case you’ve never talked to him, he’s really nice.)? Or the Dean of Students? Or the Human Resources Department? There are so many people on this campus who have your back, as a student. Reach out, and ask for help.

In the past students have complained about what they perceive to be a high rate of CSO turnover. According to a May 2006 article in Security Management, “The national annual turnover rate for security guards is estimated to be between 100 and 300 percent, according to the Service Employees International Union, the nation’s largest private security officers union. That means that most guards leave a job within a year, and sometimes within four months.” Do you want CSOs to stay longer, learn more about Reed, and handle things better? Maybe help combat the burnout by not heaping additional abuse on the people you rely on to be here in the middle of the night, on weekends, and on holidays. It can be difficult to work in a job where no one wants to see you or hear from you until they need you.

We are part of the community. We are here for you. Ask for help. Give constructive feedback. We are listening.

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