A Day in the LifeThis week: a peak into the life of CUNY Public Safety
These days at Hunter it seems like Public Safety is always nearby. As students, we know they do various things such as: ask for our ID in the Thomas Hunter Building, or give directions around the West Building. But they have to be doing more than that, right? Jose Guzman, a 6-year veteran of the Hunter College Public Safety and Security Department,
is a Campus Police Officer assigned to the 68th Street campus. The Envoy sat down with him to find out what Public Safety really does around the college.
According to Guzman, Public Safety officers are trained in an academy about the powers and limits of the job – what they can do and can’t do – and the different kinds of skills they need to have, from CPR to how to help a sick or emotional person. They must bring this knowledge to work everyday, but they also need to bring in a lot of patience and a good attitude. Public Safety officers must first and foremost be informative and like helping people, which is one of Guzman’s specialities.
According to Guzman, working in a college environment is more like customer service than law enforcement. Campus police officers have to deal with students and faculty most of the time, whereas officers from the NYPD face more threatening challenges day-to-day. Guzman also noted that it helps him to be bilingual – he speaks both English and Spanish, and finds that people around Hunter are always grateful for someone to ask questions of in their own language.
Guzman has dealt with a lot of tough situations, like people getting sick and needing help in a hurry. Finals’ week always brings in many stressed students who are upset due to their increased workload. Guzman and other Public Safety officers know that finals’ week will bring anxiety, “We try to calm them down, talk them down, see if we can help them.” They work with and take guidance from staff counselors and, if necessary, they call the EMTs.
Public Safety is called upon to provide all sorts of services to those visiting the college, but Guzman feels that it is all in a days work. “I can’t really say that I’ve ever been annoyed doing this job,” Guzman said, “People ask us to do a lot of things to help them, but that’s what we’re here for. Sometimes I get asked to open a door for somebody and I do it because that’s just part of the job.”
Directions and lost item questions are the most common ones asked to Public Safety officers like Guzman. Every day they deal with questions such as where’s the North Building, and so Guzman always carries around a sheet with him so he can help with figuring out where a specific department or office is located. He also fields many questions about the lost and found process at Hunter, “people are always losing things”.
Students complain about having early classes, but compared to a Public Safety officer, we have nothing to complain about! Guzman’s shift starts at 7am, and the first thing he does is a roll call with the sergeant, which “...can last from 15 to 25 minutes, and it’s where we get our posts for the day, which can be a patrolling or standing post.” If Guzman gets a patrolling post, he’ll be “...walking through whatever buildings I’m assigned to. For example, I might get assigned to patrol the North Building from 11 in the morning to 1 p.m. I keep my radio on at all times in case there’s what we [Public Safety officers] call an aided person (somebody who needs help) or I might get a call because there’s an alarm going off or there’s a dispute between students.”
If Guzman doesn’t receive a radio call, he goes up and down the escalators and stairwells making sure everything is operating normally. He also checks offices to make sure the ones that should be locked are locked. If they are not, then someone must be alerted. Part of the day is spent covering for other officers when they’re on their breaks. Guzman says, “We get a 30-minute lunch break, so you have to cover for the other guys until they get back.” Public Safety officers also have to work in the central office in the Hunter West basement where they keep watch on the screens at all times, answer the phones, and jot down everything that comes through – it’s a lot of multi-tasking.
The most important thing Public Safety officers should do to get ready for a day on the job is to be prepared emotionally, emphasized Guzman. This is the kind of job where every day is different and unpredictable. Officers have to be ready for anything and always remain impartial since they cannot take sides in a dispute. “This is really a customer service job,” Guzman said, “so you need that helpful, positive attitude.”