On a campus at the center of a dense urban environment, Public Safety’s stated goal is to ensure the well-being of the Mills College community.
It is hard not to notice their presence – the first person any visitor meets as they enter the gates is a security officer. The officer is in charge of checking vehicles for parking permits, asking visitors for identification and their purpose for being on campus, ensuring dog walkers have appropriate documentation for their animal, answering emergency phone calls and monitoring the cameras that survey the front gate. It must be stressful — this is one person’s job.
“You have to be a good multitasker,” said Public Safety Officer Robert Harvey, who works the day shift at the front gate.
But there is only so much a good multitasker can do alone. After last semester’s string of crimes on campus, the College invested in outside help. Three private security officers from a company called Securitas were hired to lend the regulars a hand.
“We want extra eyes on the back fence,” said Michael Lopez, Director of Public Safety. After hiring the extra security officers, two individuals were caught climbing the fence facing Seminar Avenue.
“We didn’t know how bad that side of the fence was,” he said.
The back fence is not the only part of campus with problems. Even at the front gate, Lopez said Public Safety has run into some issues.
“A big problem is people not following instructions,” Harvey said. It’s a problem that could become a threat to an officer’s safety.
Lopez recalled an incident when a dog walker refused to show identification. When the Public Safety officer did not back down, the individual told the dog to attack him. In cases like this, Public Safety calls the Oakland Police Department.
Over the years, Public Safety and OPD have formed a strong partnership, according to both Lopez and Harvey. The two departments often share information, which allows Public Safety to be aware of potential safety issues off-campus that could affect the College.
“They will let us know about shots fired in this neighborhood, which is very common,” Lopez said.
Public Safety also plans on working closely with OPD to provide added security for Nancy Pelosi’s speech during graduation.
How does Public Safety manage all these tasks?
“We prioritize and pray that there is not a 911 call,” Harvey said.