Reduced need and misconduct are primary reasons for removal
In late February, the snowstorm that left many students without power also left the Sports Center without a roof. Following the collapse of the Sports Center, Community Safety saw a need to protect students and faculty from the damage and debris. Normally, Community Safety Officers (CSOs) would supervise areas of concern such as the Sports Center. Instead, to “allow CSOs to do their primary work without the added burden of extra vigilance of the Sports Center,” Community Safety hired contract security officers, according to Community Safety Director Gary Granger in a written statement. The company, First Response, states on their website that their primary concern is “creating a service catering to each client’s specific needs.”
In an email correspondence with the Quest, Granger shared the patrol orders given to the contract officers. The patrol orders specified: “DO NOT ENGAGE WITH ANYONE.” The orders also explicitly stated the scope of their patrol only to the “Sports Center, including fencing and approaches… Botsford Drive” and “The West Parking Lot.” All officers were required to follow COVID protocols on campus, including wearing a mask when people are present and completing the “Daily Health Check” to report all COVID-19 symptoms.
As of March 22, the use of contract security officers has ended. Granger said there were many reasons why Community Safety ended their use of contract officers. Primarily, Granger stated, “with the hazards of the gym collapses removed and the rest of the sports center secured, we do not feel that extra security is needed.” Another reason for the termination of contract is financial; Granger noted the cost of contract officers “can be over $35/hour (most of which goes to the company, not the security officer).” The termination of the partnership agreement also came after weeks of what Community Safety Manager Dhyana Westfall called “astoundingly bad” behavior in a written statement.
One instance, later discussed on Twitter, occurred in the KRRC studio. The Quest reached out to KRRC Studio Engineer Delaney Neal about her experience with the contract security officers. On Friday, March 12, during the Renn Fayre theme reveal stream, Neal and another student were in the KRRC studio hosting the livestream. A contract officer came into the studio, concerned that students were using the space in the evening, and began to ask Neal questions. Because the other student was actively DJing, Neal was the only person to speak with the officer. Neal stated that for the first portion of her interaction with the officer, he was not wearing a mask, in direct violation of the patrol orders given to all contract security officers. Neal told the Quest that the officer was concerned that students were in the space and that the studio door had been propped open. Neal told the officer that she and the other student had received prior permission to be there. She further explained that they were leaving the door open to help ventilate the office while it was in use. The officer repeatedly asked Neal to specify why they were there and who gave them permission. He asked to see Neal’s ID, which she showed him, and then he left.
Following the experience, a CSO reached out to Neal to learn about what happened. At first, Neal did not think her small interaction with the officer was “a big deal.” However, once the CSO told Neal that the contract officers did not have permission to be in the KRRC studio, Neal found the officer’s behavior “alarming.” Overall, Neal found her experience with the officers not as unpleasant as she assumes “other student have had with the contract officers.”
Along with Neal’s experience with the officers, many students have reached out to Community Safety reporting officers shining their flashlighting into residence halls, usually late at night. According to Westfall, this behavior was “totally unacceptable” and was one of the many reasons Community Safety stopped using the officers.
Granger said the actions taken by contract officers that were outside their orders “is a key reason for our reluctance to use them in the first place and we only do so in extraordinary circumstances.” He also said, “I am sorry that the contract security officers failed to follow our instructions and were disruptive to our campus community.”
In her statement, Westfall said this particular experience is the “only time I can think of when we’ve had contract security officers take on ‘extra’ work outside of the scope of what the college has asked of them.” Westfall finished with a notice to all students: “If students ever experience something like this in the future… call or text Community Safety when it’s happening, so that we can respond to the behavior right away.”
Tucked at the bottom of a Reed Campus News email was an announcement that two new CSOs were hired, starting March 29. When asked about the hiring of the two new CSOs, Westfall said “There may be a correlation in that we hired the contract security, in part, because we didn’t have as many CSOs working as we have positions allocated to our department.” Westfall explained that while the hiring process began before the contract security officers were hired, Community Safety felt two new CSOs were needed to handle the work contract officers had been doing.