Campus safety officials have earned a new importance in recent years. No longer are they just the ones locking doors after the end of classes and watching out for property damage. Campus Safety officials are now the people that handle more serious concerns, such as sexual assaults, mental health issues, and active shooters.
Protecting students today has become more of a challenge. With unfortunate events happening in k-12 school districts, college campuses have taken to upgrading their software and technology to better protect their student body. When a campus purchases safety software, encouraging students to get on board with downloading an app or signing up for something can be tricky.
Regardless of whether a student downloads an app or not, campus safety officials can still encourage students to safely navigate through campus and provide tips for other scenarios in case of emergencies. A key to success is getting students to take ownership for their well-being and getting involved with campus safety initiatives.
Here are four ways campus safety officials can encourage student safety:
- Having a Community Policing Mind-Set. Some students see safety officials as “the ones” who write tickets, enforce the rules, or encounter students at their worst. As a result, campus safety officials struggle to communicate with students. By engaging with the students in ways like hosting coffee or pizza sessions, campus safety officials can open a pathway to building better relationships with the student body. Whether it’s working with residence halls to create programs about staying safe on campus, restructuring campus safety to involve more foot and bicycle patrols, or hosting sessions open to community members, campus safety officials can open more lines of communication with the student body through community policing.
- Providing More Inclusive Training. With recent police shootings and other incidents on and off campus nationwide, most safety officials are working on expanding their training to include more community engagement and comprehension on various diversity issues. Some departments have chosen to hire new officers to reflect their community and some have LGBTQ liaison officers to help create a safer environment. Campus safety officials have also geared their training to mental health issues to better understand someone’s distress or actions. By covering all aspects of safety issues on a campus and better understanding the campus community, safety officials are more prepared to react to scenarios around campus.
- Teaching Life Lessons. Living away from home can be a challenge for most new college freshmen. Many students are struggling with depression and anxiety, and others are struggling with access to alcohol and drugs. Many campus safety officials are offering classes to teach basic life lessons to be used for emergencies, such as self-defense classes, conflict resolution courses, drug and alcohol awareness seminars, and fire and personal safety classes. These sessions create a safer feeling in the community and help students to feel better in their new homes.
- Connecting with Students on Their Terms. Many campus safety officials have struggled with engaging the community in law enforcement efforts. Generation Z, people born between 1995- 2009, are digital natives and do everything by their phones. Having a campus safety app could make a difference in establishing campus safety officials and student body connections. An app that features anonymous tip submissions could alleviate students feeling retaliation from classmates and empower students to assist their community. Finding ways to better connect with students will encourage them to own policing their community.
Engaging students and encouraging them to manage their own safety can lead to better policing by safety officials. However, finding ways to do just that can be difficult. The above four ways can just be the beginning to a safer community. To learn more about how to creatively engage a campus student body or to see how other colleges are handling their student law enforcement engagement, see Laying the Groundwork for Trust.