By Kenneth Glidden, Head Culture Co-Writer
Photos from McKendree University
Most Students here have heard about the Public Safety Office, or “PubSafe,” as most like to call them. As written on the Public Safety page of our university’s website, “Public Safety is responsible for maintaining a safe and orderly environment on the campus; assisting members of the University community as needed; responding to emergency situations including fire alarms, inclement weather alarms, and other incidents; and enforcing parking and other university policies.” Most students, however, don’t know much about the officers of public safety, what they do, or what services they provide for us students.
Caleb Law, a junior here at McKendree, might be a good example of the average student when asked what they know about PubSafe. “I know they respond to those emergency posts around campus, I know they enforce stuff on campus and just watch and make sure the students are safe.” I then asked if he had ever required PubSafes assistance with anything, to which he said no, which is a good thing, in my opinion. After hearing this I knew that it was only right to spread word of the Public Safety office and all they can do to help you and your experience here at McKendree.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Tony Tomlinson, the Director of Emergency Services here at McKendree University. He was very polite and courteous as I stepped into his office and began the interview. I first wanted to know what the role of Public Safety is in terms of helping the students here at McKendree? He responded, “Our function is to assist the students in any way we possibly can, whether it’s jumping a car, helping changing a tire, taking a report, or whatever it is they may need.” He mentioned that they “open a lot of doors,” which seems like a lovely figurative statement, but he was completely literal. If you happen to find yourself in a situation where you are locked out of your building or accidentally locked your keys in the car, PubSafe is only a call away from helping you out!
Mr. Tomlinson also mentioned when speaking about these helpful services, “There is no limit on how often we’ll do it.” This doesn’t mean go lock your keys in your car or never carry your Student ID, but it doesn mean that PubSafe is here to help you whenever you are in need of assistance.
Not only is PubSafe here to help you out when your vehicle is in a pickle, or when you forget your ID when taking the trash out, they are also here to assist you when a bigger incident has occured. As Mr. Tomlinson put it, “We also liaison with the city, when it is our students involved so we can kind of control or help prevent any issues that would happen with our students.” This may not happen often, and PubSafe cannot really help you if you have caused serious trouble, but knowing that there is an office of men and women who wish to do what they can to help you when you’ve been in a minor accident of some sort is really comforting and a great bonus to have on campus.
You may have heard word going around that PubSafe and the Lebanon Police Department had some sort of merger, or that they have been working together as of late, and this is a big topic that needed to be cleared up so that we may all know what has changed and what hasn’t. To give you a short answer, there was no merger and PubSafe hasn’t gained or lost any power as of recent. What is actually the case is that PubSafe has maintained and possibly slightly strengthened its bond with the Lebanon Police department.
“What we do now, different, with me here, than what we did before is I was a very active police officer and I am still really active in law enforcement,” Tomlinson stated. “So, the thought that we’re merging with LPD, we’re not. I just use them better than in previous years, we work together. It is tough to hire police officers right now… so we find ourselves being the assist officers for Lebanon because our officers are certified police officers. We find ourselves assisting them on calls where they are by themselves because they are short staffed, as we are, and they also assist us. Nothing is any different than before, I just have a personal relationship because I was in that department. But it’s not limited to Lebanon; that may be the thought, but it’s not because I don’t want my ability to help them [McK Students] only be able to help them in Lebanon. So, I am using whatever resources I can.”
So, just as it has been this whole time, PubSafe officers are already certified police and when matters reach the necessary levels, PubSafe works with the local police departments in the areas surrounding McKendree to best help students be secure and stay out of trouble. This is very interesting to me as in past years, before Mr Tomlinson took the role of Director, PubSafe has made some questionable mistakes trying to “keep the university safe.”
This role includes many necessary responsibilities, like raiding a room on campus after a rule is violated during the mandatory room checks. When an RD or RA finds something that violates a policy within a room or McKendree owned property during a roomcheck, the room is now open to a full search by Public Safety. With that, there are rules that Public Safety must follow when conducting a room search.
A senior here at McKendree, who wishes to remain anonymous, explained to me what went down when their room was raided. “Health and Safeties happened while we were at practice, and when we came back our door was locked, which it usually isn’t. There was no note on the door explaining what had happened and when we walked into our suite it was completely ransacked. A mattress was taken off the bed frame, one of my roommates’ underwear bins was gone through and emptied on the ground, the whole place was disheveled. I thought someone had broken in, but days later we got an email regarding all the things confiscated from our room and how much trouble we were in.”
While Public Safety did not explicitly break any of the rules or rights students have been given in the handbook regarding search and seizure, this case was handled very poorly. The victim of this search and seizure explained that they were never contacted with a reason for the search and seizure; they were not informed beforehand, nor did the officials in charge of the search make any effort to contact to the students belonging to that area so that they may be present for the search, even though the hand book states, “Officials make a reasonable effort to ensure that a student belonging to the area is present during the search.” This made all of the women of this suite feel violated and vulnerable, there was nothing they could do even though protocol was not followed properly, and the only excuse given to the girls for what was done to them was that they were short-staffed. This doesn’t seem like a legitimate excuse to not follow the procedures, but I believe that PubSafe is headed in the opposite direction now.
As you may or may not have noticed, PubSafe has really stepped up their game in terms of following protocols and enforcing rules. Mr Tomlinson is even keen on solving McKendree’s prominent parking problem. He has been really pushing vehicle registration.
“It goes two ways,” Tomlinson says. “If something should happen, we can figure out who it is. We have had hit and run accidents where we don’t know whose car it is and if we don’t know whose it is, we can’t help.” Mr. Tomlinson also mentioned that PubSafe now has the ability to run plates—something they couldn’t do before—which is helpful for incidents such as his example given. He says, “If it’s registered, we can go right into the system and figure things out quicker.”
Getting your car registered with PubSafe will not only help them but it will help you out of a ticket when you’re looking for parking on campus. Mr. Tomlinson cares for the student body, and he doesn’t wish to take your money by issuing tickets or raid your room in hopes of finding something that breaks university policy. From the way he spoke about the student body, I could tell he cared. He even offers his personal number to any student who may not have anyone else to call when there’s an emergency. He shares, “It is my goal, truly, to assist kids being kids, graduating and moving up in the world.”
If you find yourself in a situation in which you have no one else to depend on, give Mr Tomlinson a call at (314) 324-5924. Also, if you haven’t yet, get your vehicle registered! The parking policy has been changed so that underclassmen and upperclassmen no longer have a divide in who can park where. It is truly now first-come, first-served in the student designated parking areas, but this won’t help your case if your vehicle is not registered in the McKendree system. To register is as simple as heading to the Public Safety office, which is located just past the softball field at the corner of Summerfield St and N Monroe St and speaking with a PubSafe officer. All you will need to tell them is some information about your car (make, model, license plate number) and get your sticker.
Public Safety is not only a McKendree University entity responsible for the safety of its students, but also a valuable resource for the student body when in need of assistance. PubSafe, like any other department, is striving for perfection for the sake of the student body.