Anyone who visits Converse knows that it’s home for many of us. For residential students, it’s their home for nine to twelve months out of the year. Commuter and graduate students have made it their second home as they pursue their studies. And faculty and staff have chosen Converse as their work home.
Safety in our Converse home is something that not everyone spends time thinking about, but it’s something that is important to everyone. We assume we will be safe as we live, study, and work at Converse. One department on campus is centered around protecting, serving, and keeping us safe: Converse Campus Safety.
Converse Campus Safety is implementing new and ongoing initiatives to better protect and serve the Converse community, and in accordance with best practices in higher-education and law-enforcement experts. The initiatives are being funded in part by the 2019 Rock the Tower fundraising project which raised over $10,000 from generous donors and a $5,000 matching gift provided by Trustee Sandy Russell Hartnett ’75. The funds were raised in honor of Retired Sergeant Bob Finch and current Chief Larry Jones’ 50 years of combined service and dedication to the Converse community.
Some of the new initiatives rolling out over the next few months include: (1) the implementation of body-worn cameras for increased accountability; (2) expanded officer training requirements and opportunities; and (3) partnerships with local law enforcement departments. Body-worn cameras (frequently referred to as BWC) are an information-gathering tool and an industry best practice asset in public safety. The cameras will be clearly visible at all times and officers must follow campus protocol for when the cameras should be activated for recording. All campus safety officers will wear body cameras as part of their daily uniform effective December 1, 2020.
The video and audio recordings from the body-worn cameras will be used by Campus Safety to demonstrate transparency, gather evidence for investigations, and to document verbal statements, observations, and behaviors. Converse believes it is important to hold our Campus Safety Officers to the highest level of professionalism and accountability. BWCs have also been shown to deter inappropriate or uncooperative behavior by those who come into contact with safety officers.
All campus safety officers will wear body cameras as part of their daily uniform effective December 1, 2020.
In addition to body cameras, Campus Safety officers will be outfitted with supplies to better equip them to serve the Converse community. Some of the equipment that has been provided and will be utilized includes new bulletproof and puncture-proof vests, chemical sprays as a second step in de-escalation and self-defense protocols, mobile phones for vehicle and field needs, enhanced first responder medical supplies, vehicle trauma kits, and personal protective equipment. The enhanced equipment will allow Converse officers to respond effectively in emergency situations, as well as protect themselves in critical situations.
“We want this campus to be a secure and safe place for students, faculty, and staff, so they can feel like it is their home away from home,” said Larry Jones, Director of Campus Safety. “It is important to us that the campus trusts us and that we are held to the absolute highest standard of accountability as we carry out our duty.”
Ongoing training will also be a key component of Campus Safety’s new initiatives. The department will continue elevating and certifying officers on the team to conduct training in areas like CPR Instruction, S.C. Law Enforcement Division (SLED) Primary Basic and Plus Training, Fire Marshall Instruction, and officers will receive extensive training in Title IX policies, response to sexual assault, COVID-19, and emergency simulation exercises. With increased opportunities for certifications, not only will Converse officers be knowledgeable themselves on public safety matters, but they will also be able to educate students, faculty, staff and others in the Converse community on topics such as self-defense awareness and education, safety tips for on- and off-campus activities, and awareness of personal rights. These resources will help empower the campus community with the necessary skills to create a safe personal environment.
“Everything we are doing is to better equip us to help and protect our campus, and especially our students.”
“I think it’s really important for our community to know that our job isn’t to police them – that’s not why we’re here,” remarked Selena Crews, Campus Safety Officer. “For some, this is the first time they are out on their own, and it can be a new and scary experience. We want them to know that they can feel much safer as they increase their knowledge about self-defense and awareness of their surroundings. And if they need us, it doesn’t matter what day or time they call, or if they call every day, we will be there.”
Earlier in the summer (July 2020), the Campus Safety and Campus Technology departments launched the RAVE Guardian mobile app, which enhances the existing Emergency Alert System communications for critical emergency notifications, severe weather warnings, and inclement weather delays/cancellations.
While all current students, faculty, and staff already automatically receive information via their Converse email address during potential emergency situations, the RAVE app provides a way for students, faculty, and staff to be immediately informed in emergency situations and report incidents on the spot, including instant messaging chats with Campus Safety.
“Everything we are doing is to better equip us to help and protect our campus, and especially our students,” said Brianne Strickler, Campus Safety Officer. “The Campus Safety team is like a family, and we’re all here to help our Converse family in any way that we can. You can reach out to us, even if it’s just because you need someone to talk to: for support, or for a listening ear.”
Campus Safety is encouraging open dialogue and welcomes conversations and questions about their policies. Officers will be routinely collecting feedback from students, faculty, staff and others to better understand how to best support the Converse community.
For questions or more information on new initiatives and the efforts of Campus Safety to better defend and secure Converse College reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.