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University of Richmond's public safety auxiliaries are tasked with assisting the University Police Department in a wide range of functions — from working security at football games to reporting unregistered parties to escorting students safely back to their rooms after a wild night out.
There are about 20 PSAs in total, and most of them are undergraduates.
Late in the fall of 2017, I ventured to learn more about the PSAs. I even accompanied two PSAs on their nightly patrol of the campus.
First, I spoke with some PSAs about the job: Kevin Martinez, who was then the PSA president; Charlie Gordner, the vice president; and Kyle Linardo, the president emeritus. Martinez and Gordner are both seniors, and Linardo is a third-year law student.
The public safety auxiliary program was founded in 2012. Its maxim has always been to be “the eyes and ears of the police department,” Martinez said. Most importantly, this includes radioing the police in the event of an emergency, but it also patrolling dorms and working security at athletic events.
Linardo stressed that taking pressure off smaller things for police was the PSAs’ principal objective.
“Anything that we can take care of is one less fully sworn police officer that the university needs to provide to cover the same level of service,” he said. “There are actually more PSAs than there are patrol officers.”
PSAs, although uniformed, aren't members of the police department.
“We don’t give out any tickets,” he said. “PSA doesn’t really have any authority in that sense. The extent of our power is radioing the police.”
Martinez emphasized the PSAs were not out to get anyone, just to guarantee safety.
“One thing people need to understand is that we’re students as well,” Martinez said. “If we’re not working that Sunday, we’re probably out and about with everyone else on campus. A lot of people tend to underestimate the kinds of things that happen on this campus on weekend nights.”
The PSAs agreed that how much trouble a student gets into depends on how cooperative that student is. If a drunk person, awakened after passing out on the floor, gets too confrontational and fights, that person might go to the Richmond City jail instead of the hospital.
“We don’t care about your drinking,” Linardo said. “Everybody does it. But we want to make sure the person passed out drunk on the ground when it’s like 20 degrees outside doesn’t die.”
Starting pay for a PSA is $8.85. All students are welcome to apply, but applicants have to demonstrate a greater sense of purpose to the university to get the job.
“They have to want to do the job for more than just the paycheck,” Linardo said. “They have to want to help contribute to campus safety.”
Accepted applicants undergo training, some of which are classroom-type activities such as viewing PowerPoints and participating in discussion. It also includes learning how to perform tasks like using radio and doing night patrols.
The police department also issues some equipment to auxiliaries.
“We have keys for just about everywhere on campus,” Gordner said. “We have the radios, we have flashlights and we also have the golf carts, too, if we’re working the day shift. And jump packs to give someone’s car battery a boost if they need it.”
To better understand their job on a typical night, I agreed to accompany two PSAs on their patrol. The following Friday, I came to the headquarters at 9 p.m. to go on a walk-along with Linardo and another PSA, junior Maddie Bright.
Although the night was, in Linardo’s words, a “dud,” I saw PSAs at work. When a mass of students arrived back from a social on WINN buses, Bright and Linardo watched them parade back to their rooms to see whether any of them looked too inebriated to safely participate in any party that might follow. When we noticed a light out outside the Greek Theater, Linardo informed members of the police department via his radio so they could put in a work order to have the bulb replaced. A student in Pacific House had locked himself out of his room, so Bright let him in with one of her keys. Periodically, Linardo and Bright broke from patrol to write their logs, which Bright said were for the police department to maintain accountability.
We had a great deal of time to talk, and they shared their favorite parts of the job. For Bright, one perk was getting to work with police officers and getting to see firsthand some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of law enforcement. She said she had even helped the officers clean their shotguns. Linardo said he loved to get the chance to direct traffic, which is not something PSAs do often anymore.
Although working for a community of students that often seems ungrateful can be frustrating, they said they were glad to serve when students were in dire need. One shift stuck out to Linardo in particular, as a night when he felt he was able to be a resource to someone who wasn’t being belligerent or stupid but was genuinely having a bad night.
“I’ve escorted a freshman girl back who was having a terrible night,” he said. “Her friends had abandoned her, her date had been a [jerk], she was drunk. We found her crying in the Dennis bathroom. We were able to give her an escort from Dennis to Lora Robins.
"We were just going to escort her to her dorm, and then we saw that she was so drunk that she couldn’t even get her swipe right. So we walked her all the way to her room.”
Bright agreed that it was a pleasure to assist people on campus who might otherwise be in deep trouble.
“I’m optimistic about human beings,” she said. “As much as my classmates and colleagues can be idiots, I actually love helping them. We do genuinely provide a service that’s helpful and gets people out of a rut.”
I returned to my room after two a.m. that Friday without any grand stories to tell. However, I did sleep slightly more soundly with the knowledge that the university has students willing to be of assistance when needed.
Contact opinions editor Hunter Moyler at firstname.lastname@example.org.