Alumni keep campus safe
MSU police officer Tony Willis and Christopher Clark, a student in the intelligence operations program, talk during a career fair at Kellogg Center. The event was expected to draw about 600 attendees. Julia Nagy/The State News
Although many MSU students might be intimidated by the flashing blue and red lights on campus, MSU police officers said they should remember many officers were once in their shoes.
MSU police Sgt. Florene McGlothian-Taylor estimated nearly half of the about 70 officers in the MSU Department of Police and Public Safety were MSU graduates — something that could be an advantage to both officers and students.
“It’s an advantage because they are familiar with the university,” McGlothian-Taylor said. “They were students here.”
McGlothian-Taylor said because MSU is an educational institute, officers that are MSU graduates, as well as some others in the department, try to act as educators of the law instead of just ticket-givers.
This is true for officers such as Sam Miller , who just over one year ago was one of the nearly 40,000 students living a fairly typical college experience at MSU.
He said although he lived a slightly different college experience than most students because he worked as a student supervisor in the department, he feels being a student has increased his ability to relate to the people in his jurisdiction.
“I understand the sanctity and the tradition of football Saturdays and staying in college dorm rooms and just wanting to have a night in,” Miller said. “My job is obviously to enforce the law. What I try to do is what is in the best interest of the community.”
Miller said because of his knowledge of the campus, he attempts to advise students he interacts with. He said he frequently recommends students utilize the legal services provided by MSU’s undergraduate student government, ASMSU.
Officer Jessica Martin said the biggest difference she has seen between herself and officers not originally from MSU is the understanding of such a diverse campus. She said she often is able to determine what sort of student she will be dealing with, international or otherwise, based on their location on campus.
She said alumni officers have an increased understanding of the position students can be in, and communication with police is a key factor during interactions.
“We understand, but ask students use discretion and bear in mind (their) safety,” Martin said of students partaking in the college-partying atmosphere. “We’ve been here. If you open the door, more often we’ll leave without ramifications.”
Officer Tony Willis said as a Wayne State University graduate, he initially felt officers who attended MSU had a better grasp of the community, but after about 25 years as an MSU police officer, he is a Spartan through and through.
Willis said when he started at MSU, he was surprised he didn’t need to be too gruff as an officer because of how extremely kind and respectful community members were.
Willis represented the department at the School of Criminal Justice Career Fair Tuesday night at Kellogg Center, where students such as Christopher Clark learned about nearly 75 different law enforcement agencies.
Clark, a student in the intelligence operations program, said MSU has an attractive department for those considering a career in law enforcement because of its resources and opportunities such as its homeland security division, which he considered rare for a local department.
Statistics and psychology junior Clare Grazal said despite the irony of MSU officers policing the student community they were once a part of, she liked knowing they were MSU alumni.
“It seems more comfortable — not that dealing with police is ever comforting,” Grazal said.
Martin said it is important to remember that police officers are Spartans, too.
“This is our home as much as it’s your home,” she said.