What do you think of when you hear Public Safety, or any of its derivatives like PSafe or DPS? Security guards? Breaking up parties? Parking tickets? Room lockouts? Well those thoughts may not be wrong, but those things are a fraction of what our Public Safety officers do on a daily basis. They are more than just security guards. Each and every one of the 17 officers on staff is a trained police officer. That even extends to our Director/Chief Michael Rossano, who was a Philadelphia Detective before joining us in 2010. Beyond that information there are a lot of things that Public Safety is responsible for, and some of their capabilities are surprising and yet necessary for our safety.
The most surprising thing about Public Safety, which I will confess is not a capability but rather a service, is that they offer the opportunity for anyone in the F&M community to ride along with a Public Safety officer during his/her shift. While this has been a policy that’s been in effect for quite some time, it hasn’t been something students have known about until now. Thanks to the efforts of the Diplomatic Congress (DipCon) and its Public Safety Task-force, the existence of these ride alongs has been spread and to date the task force has set up 3 student leaders with ride alongs, including yours truly. The information that I will share was gleaned from that ride along, and while I will reference information given by the Officer I was with, I will not quote him directly as I did not ask his permission. That being said, all information is public knowledge and can be obtained by simply asking any officer or person who works with Public Safety.
Do you know what constitutes Public Safety’s jurisdiction? The answer is, simply put, you are not out of reach of Public Safety by simply going into Buchanan Park or crossing over the bridge behind College Row. Public Safety can respond to incidents within 500 yards, or 5 football fields, of any college owned property and/or facility. By convention there are some areas of this coverage that Public Safety defers to local authorities for coverage due to lack of proximity to the main campus, but an Officer of Public Safety is responsible for checking those areas a few times during a given shift.
I’m sure you know about Public Safety’s security cameras, and for those of us who were here in the fall of 2010 we remember how they aided in identifying a suspected gunman on campus. Of course the gunman was only a father with an inauspiciously shaped toolkit, but that incident last fall sparked questions of the capabilities of those cameras. Well while they have the ability to clearly catch license plates and determine if one is holding a bottle or a fountain drink from Pandini’s, they cannot view inside any residences that might happen to be in their line of sight. All windows are blacked out in the live image received at Public Safety as well as images downloaded or recorded for legal reasons.
Of course it is important to remember that Public Safety also goes by another name, Franklin & Marshall College Police as they are a fully accredited and recognized police department in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As such we do employ a full time Detective, as well as having former Detectives in our patrol staff. Public Safety Officers do not carry weapons, and currently are the only police department in the commonwealth to operate without weapons at their disposal.
While these few things are what piqued my interest most during my ride along, I encourage any and all students to do their own ride along so that they can witness firsthand what it is Public Safety does. For more information email the Chair of DipCon’s Public Safety Task-force Julie Jefferson.
Below you will find a slideshow of myself, New College House Consul (President) Alexandra Kranidis ’13 (in front of car) and DipCon President Elana Jaret ’12 (in front of white board) in our bullet vests before each of our ride alongs: