The University of Iowa Department of Public Safety is expanding its student security officer program as part of a growing effort to build a community policing culture on campus.
“When students set foot on our campus, I want them to see our officers as an approachable resource,” says Scott Beckner, assistant vice president and director of Public Safety. “We want to focus on building positive relationships with students, and that means coming up with innovative ways to break down barriers.”
One of those innovations includes creating an opportunity for students to get a behind-the-scenes look at how the department works while also allowing them to play a role in keeping their own community safe.
“When students come here, we want them to feel comfortable sharing their concerns,” says Beckner. “They often have a better sense of the pulse of their community, and inviting them to help us keep campus safe is a great way to get honest feedback.”
Though the department historically has employed a handful of students each semester to help with security-related duties, it hopes to hire about 125 students to help with building checks, dorm patrol, fingerprinting, athletic events, and other special events. The program also will feature opportunities for students to advance to supervisory positions to assist with additional daily operations.
Sarah Ingwersen, a senior health sciences major from Council Bluffs who recently was promoted to security supervisor for the UI Museum of Art, says the experience will help her further her professional career.
“Learning how to work with people and understanding how law enforcement functions behind the scenes has been very valuable to me from both a student and a citizen perspective,” says Ingwersen. “The leadership skills I’ve gained in this setting will be applicable no matter what I do after graduation.”
All students hired for the program attend in-house training that pertains to their assignment. In addition to training, each student employee carries a radio that connects directly to the department’s dispatch system, where they have the support of fulltime security staff and police officers who are prepared to assist at any time.
Daisy Torres, a sophomore criminology major from Chicago who joined the program last September, says the experience has been particularly rewarding given her interest in a law enforcement career.
“What I like about this job is that I get to practice policing skills and community service before I even enter the force,” says Torres. “It was intimidating at first, but the officers I’ve worked with have really helped me build my confidence, and now I have a better sense of whether I want to be a police officer after graduation.”
Torres says the experience also changed some of her previous perceptions about law enforcement.
“Before I took on this role, I had a tendency to feel intimidated when I ran into a security guard or police officer on campus,” says Torres. “But now that I’ve been in their shoes, I understand the role they play on campus and why it’s so important.”
Security Supervisor Jonathan Ron says that’s exactly what expanding the program is all about—creating more opportunities for students to have positive experiences with the department while gaining valuable life skills.
“This program not only gives our officers a chance to get to know students but provides students with valuable experiences that are critical to the function of this institution,” says Ron. “By teaching our student security officers to think on their toes and interact with people on campus, they’re learning more about us as people and building soft skills that are valuable in any field.”
For more information about the UIPD’s Student Security Officer Program, visit: https://police.uiowa.edu/security/security-patrol
Applications are accepted throughout the year. For more information, visit: https://police.uiowa.edu/about/employment-opportunities