Demystifying AU Police
The Changing Department and the Resources it Provides for StudentsBy Emma Ashooh | 9/10/17 6:48pm | Updated 9/10/17 6:48pm
The energy in the room was contagious, even though many were attending the class for the first time. About 20 women gathered in the McDowell Formal Lounge, ready to learn about crime prevention and self-defense techniques in a mini-RAD class. This is just one of the many reminders of how safety on campus is reinforced. The obvious signs include emergency blue lights around campus, secured dorm buildings or AU police officers walking around, but there are many resources students might not know about. There is a gap in knowledge among students about the AU Police – the individuals who provide these resources to the community.
“I think if you want to actually look for information, it’s available, but other than Welcome Week, you don’t really hear anything else about them,” said Megan Woods, a junior in SOC, referring to how little she knows about AU Police.
The department is trying to raise awareness. While many know it as Public Safety, the campus law enforcement authority is now called AU Police. It is developing a plan with marketing students to showcase the name-change and make their services better known. AU Police will also have a new home. Around mid-May, AU Police and its divisions will move to East Campus. “We‘re really excited about the move and the re-branding,” said Lieutenant Rima Sifri, who has been with AU Police for 12 years and also taught the self-defense class mentioned above.
So what services does AU Police provide? Woods took a guess: “They do the blue lights, they help with transports, they ticket my car.” This is true, but Sifri also emphasized that AU’s 60 police officers are “very passionate about students’ health, their safety and their well-being.”
There are many different resources provided by AU Police that students should know about and utilize. For one, the Rave Guardian phone app acts as a personal safety device. It has a panic button that sends your location directly to AU Police and a safety timer that alerts them if you do not turn the timer off in the time you indicated it would take to reach your destination. Another service is the RAD self-defense class, open to all. AU Police also provides crime prevention presentations, emergency preparedness information, programs such as Safe Ride Back to Campus and safety escorts. Another feature of campus safety is the school’s 100 percent lockdown capability, ready at the touch of a button in headquarters. Every classroom also has a manual lock.
One tool all students receive is emergency alerts. They are issued to inform people of incidents both on and off campus. “Most of the time, in terms of the alerts, [the situation] is an immediate danger to the community. But then again, there’s other things where it might not be a danger to our community, but we want to let people know what is going on around outside of campus,” Sifri said. “It’s another tool in our toolbox to make sure people know what is going on.”
In addition to alerts about on-campus occurrences, there have been nine robberies and one carjacking off-campus that were alerted to the community throughout the spring semester. The timeliness of these notices have caused some students to question the alert system and what AU Police is doing to guarantee safety.
While AU Police only has jurisdiction over the property AU owns, it often works with the Metropolitan Police Department on incidents in nearby areas. “If we hear about it, we are going to start responding. MPD needs to do the investigation because it is in their jurisdiction, but we are really not limited to that,” said Sifri. MPD will often ask AU Police to assist on cases, especially when AU students are involved. AU Police also collaborates with the FBI, Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security.
AU police officers have an important job of making students feel safe on campus. It’s more than just providing services, it’s about showing students they care. “We love our kids, we really do. And we are so thankful for them,” Sifri said. And how many kids did she say she has? “12,000” – or the entire AU student body.