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Capital University News, California State University, Sacramento

February 17, 2004

Student officers keep watch over campus

At 300 acres and more than 30,000 citizens, CSUS is its own small city. To help keep that city safe the public safety office has enlisted a second line of defense - a team of student community service officers, or CSOs, who patrol the campus, on the watch for potential trouble.

"They're the eyes and ears of the department," says Bill Scholtz, who heads the program. CSUS police chief Ken Barnett asked Scholtz, the former lieutenant of the California State Fair police, to come out of retirement last spring to oversee the program. Since then it has expanded from a residence hall-based operation with six officers to a full campus patrol with a staff of 16.

The students are not sworn officers and don't carry weapons. They are on duty to be ambassadors for the department, providing assistance and a presence. "Prevention is the main thing," Scholtz says. "We want them to be alert to not only crime but suspicious activity and potential safety hazards such as spilled water on a floor or a downed power line.

"The three things we want from CSOs are to be highly visible and if something were to occur, to observe and to report. If they see something they can help the university police by trailing the suspect or giving additional information."

Most of the CSO students are criminal justice majors seeking work experience. Edon "Donnie" Myftari has been a CSO for two years and expects to put his experience to use as a law enforcement officer for the United Nations when he returns to his native Kosovo after graduation.

"The best part is that my mere presence is preventing potential crime," he says. He also appreciates the chance to put what he learns in the classroom to use in the field. "I get to see police procedures first-hand in real life situations. I get the chance to prepare for what's waiting when I get out."

Myftari suggests any student interested in law enforcement try the program, even if it's just to find out if the profession is not for them. "They might find out it's not what they want to do," he says. In addition to the community service training the CSOs receive, they draw a salary and can get up to six units of elective coursework credit.

Scholtz also champions the value of the program as a training ground. "Experience and exposure to real life is important. This is what they'll find in the real world," he says. He sees his work with the student officers as a continuation of the work he did in his previous law enforcement positions because he's always seen himself in the role of teacher. For example, he's a stickler for officer safety and he regularly seeks out officer safety bulletins to pass along to the CSOs.

He also makes sure the officers are on duty when the campus is busiest. The officers work in pairs from 8 a.m. to noon and noon to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. They also cover evening shifts from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. four nights a week and maintain a presence at the residence halls seven days a week from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.

As part of their regular foot patrols of the campus, the CSOs give special attention to areas where a lot of people gather such as the bookstore, the library and the University Union. They also have two motorized carts for patrolling the parking lots where the extra presence has helped find evidence of break-ins. In addition, the officers provide support at football games and helped with security at last semester's gubernatorial candidate debate.

Each new group receives six hours of training on what they can and can't do on the job.

"Rookie" officers are also assigned to work with an experienced CSO like Myftari for their first few weeks on the job. Myftari says he appreciates the opportunity to work with newer officers just as the public safety officers on campus have helped him.

"I have enough experience to act as a guide. Not just administering the program, but setting up a new generation of officers."

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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 • infodesk@csus.edu
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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 • infodesk@csus.edu