Campus Safety Turns to Students for Patrol

At first glance, Kelsey Furth seems like a typical college student. She’s enrolled in the Onondaga’s fire protection technology program. She hits the books in the library and studies hard. And she enjoys hanging out with friends in the dining hall on her lunch break.

But for a few days each week, Furth becomes part of something greater. She proudly slips on a blue shirt, bears the Onondaga Community College crest and transforms into a member of its student patrol.

“It’s a really cool experience,” she says. “It’s taught me a lot about myself and the campus.”

As a student patrol officer, Furth works closely with Onondaga’s Department of Campus Safety and Security to maintain the integrity, respect and well-being of the College. Her efforts, along with the efforts of every officer at the College, continue to make Onondaga one of the safest campuses in the SUNY system.

But, just like any officer, Furth isn’t working a 9-5 job. Sometimes, she’s locking doors to buildings and securing the residence halls past midnight. And during the day, it’s no surprise to see her scanning a sea of cars – pen and paper at the ready, writing out parking tickets.

“As a freshman, it definitely helped me learn the campus better,” she shares. “It also showed me what it meant to be more independent – I’m taking on more stuff by myself now.”

Becoming a member of the student patrol was no easy feat. Furth and six others were selected for the program this semester from a pool of nearly 50 applicants. Once they passed the initial screening process, they endured six weeks of rigorous training and completed a background screening.

After finishing their training and a minimum of 50 hours of volunteer service, Furth and her colleagues received licensing as New York State security guards. And in addition to their daily responsibilities, they’re expected to act as liaisons to the College, even going as far as working major campus events such as Jazz Fest and athletics games.

“Members of the student patrol report to Campus Safety. But we’re really working hand-in-hand with them,” says Dave Cohen, peace officer at the College and supervisor of the student patrol. “We want to help build competent, punctual leaders in the criminal justice system.”

Entering its third semester, the program launched as a response to growing enrollment at the College. More bodies on campus led to an increased need for security officers to stabilize events and everyday college operations. As a result, the Campus Safety Department looked at the College’s largest population for help: the students.

“Not many two-year schools offer this sort of hands-on working experience,” Cohen shares. “We’re the only two year school that we know of that licenses students as security guards. It’s a great way to get students involved.”

And though the program is still young, it hasn’t been excluded from recognition. University Business Magazine honored the College’s student patrol as one of its Fall 2010 Models of Efficiency and featured a spread on the program in its November/December 2010 issue.

“It’s a big surprise, as we’re just finishing the second semester of the program. But I think the award says a lot about the success of the program so far and its influence,” Cohen says.

But for Furth, the honor is a testament to the outstanding teamwork between the student patrol and campus peace officers – one she expects will continue through her tenure at the College.

“A lot of people think it’s easy work. I did too at first,” she says. “But it hasn’t been. I’m not being assigned random odd-jobs. I’m treated like a co-worker by the peace officers. I’m working with anyone who’s on the shift, spotting situations and helping them with whatever they need. It’s definitely given me a new perspective.”