It’s a busy day for Jennifer Boucher, Tiffin University’s Director of Campus Security. Several workers who are installing security cameras on campus pop in with an occasional question about placement, a student from the security force drops by with an inquiry and several colleagues contact her to setup meetings.
Juggling an array of security-related issues is nothing new to Boucher, who calmly takes the need to multitask in stride. The 15-year police officer has done a lot of that since she came to TU two years ago. In the process, she’s built a top-notch security force made up of students.
The university had a night watch team in place for years, but Boucher believed it could be so much more. She contacted University officials and pitched her idea about expanding campus security.
“We have students who are going to school for homeland security, criminal intelligence and law enforcement. I thought we could give them a huge starting point in their careers by enveloping the night watch program into security,” she explains. “I knew if they learned how to do things the right way and what their responsibilities were, that would gear them toward having a baseline for when they actually started their careers.”
During the past two years, Boucher has helped to re-write the handbook for standard operating procedures, taught student employees how to collect evidence and how to compile evidence bags. This year, students have been offered a self-defense course.
“I’m trying to teach them the basics such as how to patrol, look for things, how to get involved and de-esca-late a situation,” she says.
Each of the student security employees is armed with a duty phone and backpack containing gloves, rags and a first-aid kit. They don’t carry weapons. They are taught that their best response in a dicey situation is to call 911 and ask for assistance from the Tiffin Police Department. Boucher says the students are trained not to approach a suspect. Instead, they are to observe the situation from a safe distance and provide as much detail as possible.
Those types of situations are rare. For the most part, the students handle 10-15 calls per week. TU junior Grant Dingess — a sergeant on the security force majoring in Homeland Security and Terrorism — explains the duties involved in a typical shift.
“Monday through Friday we do ticket shifts during class hours. We patrol all Tiffin parking lots to make sure no cars are parked illegally and all vehicles have proper permits,” he says.
“Our main role is to do patrols at night. We walk through all the dorms and buildings and make sure there are no policy violations. We also look out for any issues that pose potential safety concerns. We check the doors of buildings to make sure they are locked. We also work large events hosted by Tiffin University, either by working as security or organizing parking.”
Fellow officer, Elayna Sleesman, a junior majoring in law enforcement, adds that the student officers handle common complaints, such as loud noise. They also are on hand to offer students after-hours escorts to buildings or cars on campus, handle assaults if necessary and deal with alcohol or drugs.
“I think for the most part, everyone feels safe at TU,” she said.
Both Dingess and Sleesman stress the security force has been a valuable asset as a launching point for their future careers.
For Boucher, having an excellent working relationship with the Tiffin Police Department has also been a plus.
“If something happens, we do our own investigation and the Tiffin PD does its investigation. We work separate investigations, but we work together and share information,” she explains.
Since Boucher has taken the helm of TU’s security, the force has grown from 13 student officers to 23. The officers wear clothing that makes them easily identifiable as security, and there are even two security vehicles available for the students’ use.
“I’m never board,” Boucher says, smiling. “I thrive on the challenge. I like being able to try things my own way and if something works, we go with it; if it doesn’t work, we try something else. I have a great group of students to work with.”