A day serving with the campus police

The day after I went on a ride-along with the Washington State Vancouver campus police, I asked a fellow student about the security on campus and what it entailed, to which he replied: “There are no campus police, I know that. I think the little go-karts that drive around and hand out tickets is just campus security, not actual police.”

Most students I asked were under the same impression; campus security consisted of a few security guards who drove around in golf carts shoving tickets under windshield wipers.

When I met Jeanette Hurt, the officer whom I would be shadowing for the day, we began patrolling the campus and talking. I discovered that what those students though of campus patrol was far from the truth.

What I originally meant to be a playful profile of the everyday life of a security guard on a calm satellite campus quickly turned into a profile of a highly trained law enforcement officer who seemed like the happiest person on campus.

Jeannette Hurt has been at WSU Vancouver since the day the school opened. She received her Master’s degree in public affairs and criminology at WSU Vancouver before deciding to wear the shield. Being a part of WSU Vancouver for so long has provided Officer Hurt the change to watch how the campus has progressed since it came to life at Clark College to where it sits now, a school that continues to expand physically, academically, and logistically.

Hurt has dealt with some touchy issues during her tenure on campus, but very rarely. Most of the problems she runs into on campus involve cars that will not start and keys that get locked in cars. To Hurt, that is how she knows campus police are doing their jobs.

Hurt and the rest of the campus police are not faced with a lot of hostile situations. This was not why Hurt took and stayed with her job, though. When I asked her what makes working campus patrol appealing, she said this:

“Well, I’m certainly not working here because of all the action. As I’ve said, it’s mostly calm, and if something does happen, it’s something we find out about afterward like a lost phone, but usually even those show up and haven’t actually been stolen. I’m here because I love the students. That’s why this job is great, and that’s why I’m still here. Everyday I get to come to work and see the smiling faces of students and faculty. I mean, how can you not love doing what I do?”

It was clear during my ride along that serving the students of WSU Vancouver really did bring her joy. She talked about how much satisfaction she got from just being able to pop a lock on a student’s car. Knowing how much it meant to them, she said she felt “blessed” having such a big impact every day.

I tried my best to get an exciting or scary story out of Officer Hurt, or maybe something that the students do that really gets under her skin, but the worst I got was a story about a couple high school kids who decided to duct tape one of their fellow graduates halfway up a light pole as a prank. Even this she laughed at the memory of, and said that even at the time it was pretty funny. I pressed even more, I asked about angry students: has she had any bad experiences with students or faculty yelling at her or anything?

“Oh, of course” Hurt said, “but I understand where they’re coming from, I’ve been there. College is a super stressful time for anyone so I don’t get to upset when I student is frustrated.”

My ride-along was not making for a great column. There were no action pieces or high-stakes dramas, just a lot of keys locked in cars, a couple bats trapped in classrooms and one very exuberant, friendly and quite chatty police officer.

While my ride-along did not make for an exciting or humorous column, it was an eye-opener for me. Officer Hurt was adamant in expressing that her, and the other members of the campus patrol were there to serve. She strongly encouraged students to use the different resources they offered and to give them a call whenever they need help. If they cannot find a way to help, they direct them to someone who can.

Although she might not have gone on a foot chase, Officer Hurt did something more important. She informed students at they are there to serve, and that students should feel no hesitation about asking for help, no matter what. Lost phones and locked cars may seem boring, but that is exactly how both faculty and students should want it.

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