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ISSUE 119 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 3/3/2006

St. Olaf Public Safety: Behind the badge

By Corrine Thomas
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 3, 2006

Armed with familiar (but dreaded) red Jeep Grand Cherokees that whiz around campus performing unknown tasks, “sharp-looking” uniforms, and a handful of radios producing mostly white noise and whispered instructions, one may say St. Olaf's Public Safety (PS) team is somewhat of a faceless-but-nonetheless-fear-conjuring-entity on campus.

As one of the many students who has survived close-call run-ins with our school's fearless force, it is with reluctance but sheer honesty that I admit to membership of the “I'm Pretty Sure Public Safety Was Put on Earth to Ruin My Life” Facebook club.

While my time at St. Olaf has occasionally helped foster my stubborn “Stick It to the Man” attitude, I have also learned of the clarity that accompanies an open mind and a broad perspective. Realizing my lack of “real” information about St. Olaf PS, I decided it was about time to wise up and get to know the people that are Public Safety. So, with the shame of my ignorance in tow (as well as an article assignment), I trudged to the Parking Office to regain some dignity and try to put a face, other than Lucifer's, to the department.

In truth, my head was filled with expectations about the people I was about to meet. I assumed them to be the straight-faced, no-nonsense type. Either that or robots programmed to absorb any drop of fun that may be percolating in a residence hall room near you.

However, upon my arrival I did not find robots or even aliens set on tearing a new black hole for fun. I was instead greeted by officers (that's right, actual people!) Chad Christiansen and James Golden. Little did they know I was about to plunge head-first into their gripping lives and dig up the truth on campus cops.

The first thing I needed to know was how on earth Chad and Jim got to be PS officers at St. Olaf. They had similar histories: Both studied law enforcement in college, and had exceptional service backgrounds. Officer Golden arrived at St. Olaf six months ago after a stint in the military. Christiansen came to the Hill after working for some time in a jail.

The two agreed that working at St. Olaf is, for them, a step up from their previous work.

“If you were in a law enforcement job, you would always be watching over your shoulder,” Christiansen said. “Here, I just enjoy the environment.”

Golden added, “I love working with all the students, staff, and faculty here, and I think they work well together.”

Not having to carry firearms is another perk that the officers enjoy.

“We don't have to carry a side-arm, or worry about the dangers and issues that can come with that,” Golden said.

Christiansen echoed that sentiment, saying, “The only thing we carry for protection is our radio ... Northfield Police respond so fast if we need them that we don't have to carry anything more.”

However, it is not all fun and games for Olaf PS.

“Some of the cons are just in the routine enforcing of policies on campus – you get kind of a negative vibe from the students,” Golden stated. In addition, the occasional run-ins with vomit and other disgusting bodily fluids serve as an obstacle.

“I'd say one of the strangest calls I've had was I had to bring a first year to the ER because he had a grape stuck up his nose. That was probably the weirdest call. He kept the grape by the way,” added Christiansen with a laugh.

I began to learn that not only do the officers have a sense of humor about themselves, but also extensive personal accomplishments under their belts. A man of service to the core, Christiansen described his biggest accomplishment as being handpicked by President Thomforde to serve on important an campus panel, The Presidential Leadership Experience Program (PLEP).

“It is a panel of seventeen faculty and staff from all over campus that President Thomforde put together,” he said. “Right now we're looking at students with disabilities on campus, and how the college helps these students. Having the president recognize me as having leadership qualities and getting accepted onto the board was great.”

Golden, equally as service oriented as Christiansen, noted service as his largest personal achievement.

“I'm in a profession that is very much service related-responding to calls and assisting people,” Golden said.

“Outside of the job I do a lot of volunteer work at the church, with Boy Scouts, police reserves and helping out with friends and family members,” Golden said. “Probably what I get the most enjoyment out of is just helping people.”

Needless to say, both officers truly enjoy their jobs here on campus. A normal day for the two consists of reviewing memos, patrolling secluded areas on campus, checking parking lots, and securing buildings in the evenings.

Keeping St. Olaf in check is not the only aspect of these officers’ lives. Both men enjoy the outdoors, fishing, hunting and hiking.

“I really love to go camping and hiking,” Golden said. “Although my fiancée – I just got engaged recently – isn't big into hiking. But she does like to go camping and do things outdoors.”

Christiansen’s interests are expansive as well. “I'm big into computers and technology,” he said. “I like to build computers in my spare time.”

Driving around on campus, Golden is most likely listening to jazz, top-ten, or “occasionally a Nine Inch Nails song.” As for Christiansen, it's usually oldies. “I like music that tells a story versus the more repetitive songs,” he said.

Both admit to getting into a little mischief while in high school, occasionally some of the same things they now bust Oles for.

“I had the long hair and leather jacket and was in and out of a lot of bands,” Golden said. “Occasionally I got into some fights, but nothing serious.” Christiansen, a self-proclaimed “social butterfly,” played football for a few years and found friends in the jock crowd at his high school.

Christiansen and Golden said that the biggest thing they want students to understand is that, more than anything, PS is here to help students and keep St. Olaf safe.

“If a student gets a parking ticket, they'll go tell everyone and immediately dislike the department,” said Christiansen. “But when a student has something stolen, they're not going to go around and say ‘Public Safety helped me.’ It's easy to lose influence with the students in a mass capacity, but it's hard to win them one at a time.”

Admittedly, I left the office that day still harboring some hard feelings over the numerous parking tickets I have managed to accumulate on campus (all of which, I'll have you know, were completely unwarranted). But I learned that the job of a PS officer is not always a fun one, and the men and women behind the department are actually decent people. As Christiansen said, “If a student has a problem, we're here to help.”

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