Student officers help fight crime on campus

Michael Lewis

Tarah Ross, senior justice studies and psychology major, is a student auxiliary service officer for the Kent State Police Department. On the weekends she works to help keep the campus safe. MEGHAN GAURILOFF | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

When other students are in class or studying, four student auxiliary service officers work for the Kent State Police Department helping to ensure safety on campus.

Short of carrying a gun and handcuffs, three women and one man take to the streets to fight crime and learn the ropes of law enforcement.

Seniors Sara Hennon and Liah Miller, both justice studies majors, work weekdays with crime prevention while attending classes.

“I enjoy helping people and protecting those that can’t protect themselves,” Hennon said. “You learn the concepts of the field work in class. Then you learn how to apply them in the real world.”

Miller said she has always wanted to help people, but she had to overcome some hurdles in taking this job.

“At first, I was a little intimidated because I was going to be working with cops,” Miller said. “But actually everybody made us feel at home, and they’ve given good advice on how to be a cop.”

Currently, the pair works on checking and testing the alarm and alert systems on campus. Previously, they helped put together a sex offenders database for the police department’s Web site.

Both typed the names of sex offenders from eight different counties where Kent State and its regional campuses are located then cross referenced those names with each student, faculty member and employee.

“With the student security program on campus, they (police) do a really good job keeping the campus safe,” Hennon said. “This is a great force. They are so friendly and dedicated to helping the students any way they can.”

Complete with a badge on their chest, Michael Portuesi, junior criminal justice major, and Tarah Ross, senior justice studies and psychology major, work weekends ensuring students do not get too rowdy or lawless.

Initially, their semester began by riding around in a squad car with an officer. They learned the different ways to assist them and help them do their job.

“We’re an extra set of eyes and ears for the police department,” Ross said. “If we see anything suspicious, we call it in. This is the education you can’t get in the classroom.”

Portuesi said he loves working in a department that covers a unique population.

“I enjoy working at this university with such an interesting demographic (with a majority) between the ages of 18 and 22,” Portuesi said.

Both said it is an honor and a privilege working with their peers. However, people occasionally mistake them for actual cops, even going as far as turning the other way when approached.

The rules of engagement and use of force for the four students restrict putting themselves in hazardous situations. If they see something, they must report it and wait for backup.

Justice studies instructor Jim Owens, who doubles as a special agent with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, worked with Mark Colvin, program coordinator and chairman of the justice studies department, to help choose each student.

“Their jobs include everything in policing without the gun and the arrests,” Owens said. “They learn to serve their fellow students.”

According to Owens, the requirements to become an auxiliary officer include a GPA of 3.2 or higher, a minimum age of 21, responsible students with strong moral character and “people quick on the feet to exercise good judgment.”

Besides those qualities, Owens echoed a line from the movie The Choir Boys when he described what else he looks for: “All a cop ever needs is common sense, a sense of humor and a little compassion.”

Contact safety reporter Michael Lewis at [email protected].