Monday, February 06, 2006

Secure? Sure, I guess. Cordial? Not so much.

This is an editorial for the F&M College Reporter Newspaper.

During my four years here I think I have met two nice security guards. The first one was a girl that helped me jumpstart my car. She told me she was new to the force, and perhaps the novelty of the job still outweighed the inevitable cynicism that eventually consumes the majority of F&M security guards ergo her still congenial attitude. And the second was a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend. So, the routine male pleasantries were exchanged: “Hey, how’s it going,” “yo, pretty good.” Those have been my nice encounters. The rest of my meetings have been quite lackluster.
There are the numerous safety seminars attended while living on campus. All of which are delivered by someone with little sense of humor and condescended to F&M students as if they were a bunch of 11 year olds. Telling us not to play with fire, guns or alcohol with a firm finger wag and empty threats. There are the times I’ve been locked out of somewhere and talk to the dispatcher who sounds totally unconcerned during any instance and does not bother to tell you how long you may be waiting in the cold outside. The officer that is the Key Master shows up 25 minutes later and makes some quip like, “been waiting here long?” and then immediately asks to see your ID. The same ID that is of course either locked inside where you’re trying to get to, or back in your dorm because you didn’t think it would help to study. But obviously you should have it tattooed to your forehead because you should never be without it.
Next time when they finally get there with the Master Key Ring of Life tell them there is a test to see how quickly they can find the correct key. There are so many keys that it’s a wonder any building is secure or open when you need it to be. Every lock should have a fob. Then they could just have a master fob. DINK. Boom, you’re in no matter what. If not, jimmy a window, prop a door, or get a ladder.
There are the other times where you are simply trying to figure out where the hell B12 is and courteously ask a near by security guard, and still the condescension is overwhelming. WTF Mate? I just don’t get it. For some reason the cliché “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar” comes to mind. My run-ins shouldn’t be “run-ins” they should be “cordial meetings” or “friendly encounters.” These allegations may be harsh, but I have heard worse. Mind you there are times where bad kids are treated in ways that they deserve. Drunks that run their mouths or do something else dumb are just asking for more problems.
The new “squad cars” are also a riot. The Non-police cars are much better for Lancaster than the mini SUVs. The rationale behind these must have been “we can fit more drunk college kids in the back seat and in the trunk with these bad boys.” The intimidation factor is also a plus. At night, the only difference is the fact that nothing on the car is reflective lettering and cannot (I don’t think) pull you over for going 33 in a 25.
I recently had to do something as simple as check out a key at the security office. I went in and politely asked to check out the needed key. The officer asked me to repeat where the key was for, and I said it more clearly. It seemed like he took some offense to my enunciation, and I handed him my ID. As I was looking down at the huge binder sign-out book I asked what was the number to the key. He replied with hubris, “it’s written on the key, isn’t it?” I didn’t think I warranted such tone. Had I been looking up and seen the key of course I could have figured it out. But, it was a simple question with a patronizing answer. Am I being nitpicky? Maybe a little bit. But, everyone has had innumerable experiences where you feel like you ask something that may be obvious to the opposing person and in return get a non-answer answer in return.
Many new safety measures have been put in place over the few years that have made the College safer. I question however, the recruiting and interview process that goes into selecting who have been protecting our precious 170 acres if the overwhelming student consensus, from what I can tell, is a negative perception of security. Maybe, just maybe, something is amiss.
Could our sheltered little school actually be a microcosm of the “real world?” There are some places where police are seen as just another denizen of the county, but I would say in metropolises they are seen as only available in crisis. When you get pulled over on the highway are police very cordial and rush the paperwork so you can be on your way? Of course not. You were speeding so they can take their sweet time. In any case, there are innumerable instances where police are seen as the “bad guys” and should just be avoided at all costs. The same could be said for our little community. When you need to be escorted somewhere or feel that you may be in danger are you calling security or your best friends?
Security obviously is an integral part of our college community and they often serve and protect us in ways that afford thanks and appreciation. Obviously, there is a reason public opinion of security is not as high as it should be. “Well, what would you have us do better, in your opinion?” I would hire younger eager people that have better personal skills. I know nothing about what goes into recruiting our security officers. But I would much rather have overly nice people protecting us than being condescended on in a possible time of need. Maybe this is unrealistic, or maybe people skills training should be mandatory. It’s not enough to have a rule that says, “be nice.” Be safe and cordial F&M.

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