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ISSUE 116 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/14/2003

Safety truly transcends writing tickets: Student gains the perspective of a public safety officer

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 14, 2003

On Friday night, I had the pleasure of going on a ride-along with St. Olaf Public Safety officer Pamela Hoffmann. For those of you not in the know, Public Safety is responsible for giving you parking tickets, unlocking your car when you lock yourself out, protecting you from harm and a number of other tasks.

Hoffmann served as a student officer in college. While majoring in law enforcement and speech communications, she realized that she wanted to pursue it further, but did not want to become a police officer. “"I like working with higher education students. I like that level, it’s fun.”"

While serving as a student officer at Mankato State, she also obtained her Emergency Medical Technician certification. She needed that knowledge in order to assist with a serious car accident that occurred on campus. After that, she realized that she wanted to be ready in case she had to deal with a similar situation. "“I want to be able to help people when I can."”

Some nights are busy, some less so. “There are days when you absolutely love your days, and there are days when you’'ve been run through the ringer.” The night I rode along with her was a less busy night, but it had its share of problems, including capturing a bat from inside the science building and preventing a group of students from taking alcohol inside a residence hall.

Hoffmann said, "“I think most of the students appreciate having us.” However, there are students who are less appreciative of the work of Public Safety and have been known to let out the tires of Public Safety vehicles." Hoffmann understands that students become frustrated with Public Safety, but letting the air out of their tires puts the rest of the campus at risk in the event of an emergency.

Hoffmann said that the scariest incident she had to deal with at St. Olaf was approaching someone who looked like a potential threat without any backup, as the other officer on duty was occupied. "Unless I was going to get beaten to a bloody pulp, he couldn'’t help me.”" The incident turned out not to lead to violence and the person involved cooperated, but it was thanks to Hoffmann’s preparation and communication skills that nothing more happened.

Hoffmann likes giving student a chance to cooperate before proceeding further. “"My whole theory is one strike and you’'re out.” While perhaps a harsh policy, that’s one more chance than some officers are likely to give to someone," according to Hoffmann. "“You have to remember you’'re dealing with people. That’s half the fun of this job.”"

One statement that many students may find shocking is that Hoffmann believes that “parking tickets are not their highest priority.” Yes, they do ticket cars when necessary and when they do not have other incidents to attend to, but parking tickets anchor the bottom of their priority list.

One of the last things Hoffmann told me during my ride-along was "“I like helping people. It’s fun.”" So next time you see Public Safety, wave at them or give them a smile. It just might be you who needs them next.

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