Campus News

Campus Safety adds K-9 team member and new patrol vehicle

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4.1ProjectBethel's Campus Safety office will be adding a new team member as well as a new vehicle. "Officer Sherman," as he is fondly called by the other Campus Safety officers, is a retired police dog who has been approved for use by the Campus Safety team here at Bethel. "We have been working with Officer Sherman for a few weeks now and are excited to finally bring him on campus to join our team," said a campus safety spokesperson. In order to obtain clearance for Officer Sherman to join the Campus Safety team, Bethel had to meet several regulations to ensure his well-being. All campus safety officers were required to undergo the same K-9 training that police officers complete before they are permitted to work with a K-9 partner. In addition, Bethel added three new vehicles to its fleet, a 2015 Dodge Durango equipped with the same features as K-9 police vehicles and two 2016 Chevrolet Cavaliers to be used by the Campus Safety team. The K-9 vehicle is a fully armored and is armed with a machine gun, an anti-aircraft gun and other support weapons. "In this day and age, you never know what could happen," an officer said. "We're seeing more and more suicide bombings and terrorist attacks and we want to keep our campus safe, so we're stepping up our game." The Cavalier vehicles are also equipped with the same features as standard-issue police cars. With bulletproofing around the vehicle as well as updated radar technology, these cars will be well-equipped for any situation. "A lot of people ignore the fact that the campus-wide speed limit is 10 miles per hour," the officer said. "Until now, we haven't had the technology to know conclusively how fast they are going, so a lot of people have gotten away with it. I'm really excited about these new vehicles because they will allow me to do my job better. Students walking to class or to get food or study or whatever shouldn't have to worry about being run over by a car going 25 miles an hour in the parking lot or around that curve by the Acorn." Fines for speeding will be assessed according to how much the person was speeding and how many times they have been pulled over by Campus Safety for speeding. Anyone pulled over for a moving violation will receive one warning, which will be documented in an internal network so other officers can see it updated on the computers inside their vehicles. After the warning, future violations will result in a ticket and a fine. "We really want people to take this seriously," another officer added. "This isn't just Bethel buying fancy cars, and I know a lot of students will think that's all it is. But really, we've asked for this in order to be able to serve the students and this campus better." Officer Sherman and the new Campus Safety vehicles are all part of an effort on the part of the Bethel administration to move the campus a huge leap into the future. Dubbed the "4-1 Project," (four projects, one campus,) the effort is focusing on four major projects that will make campus safer, more connected and more efficient than ever. As for our new K-9 officer, all Campus Safety officers are expected to receive advanced-level training as they begin working with Officer Sherman as well as with the new vehicles over the next four weeks. The training will be conducted by members of the South Bend Police Department (SBPD). The SBPD had a press conference on Thursday regarding the new partnership with Bethel, and a spokeswoman for the department gave the overall feeling toward the program. "We're honored to serve Bethel College by helping them improve their security with new methods and advanced training," she said. "We've had a longstanding partnership with Bethel College and we're optimistic about the increased security and faster response time Bethel's students will experience and benefit from." The two Cavaliers were acquired in a package deal through SBPD. Since SBPD purchases so many police vehicles annually, it receives a significant discount per vehicle. Bethel College partnered with SBPD to obtain two police cars for the campus. The cars will be delivered on Monday. Both SBPD and Bethel College declined to comment on the cost of the Cavaliers, saying the cost was to remain confidential as part of the agreement between Bethel College, SBPD and Chevrolet. The K-9 vehicle was purchased on Wednesday, March 23 for $36,000 from the Mishawaka police department, discounted from what it would normally cost due to an overstock last year. It was originally black but is being repainted in silver with blue lettering to match the design of the other Campus Safety vehicle. The vehicle was expected to be on campus, but due to a high volume of paint job requests, the project was delayed. The K-9 vehicle should be completely painted by the end of the day Friday, April 1, according to the campus safety department. Once the vehicle is on campus, Officer Sherman will be brought on campus as well. "It was hard to keep this a secret," said a student worker from the campus safety office. "I knew about Officer Sherman a few weeks ago and I wanted to tell my friends so bad. I knew they would've freaked out over it because it's just so cool. It's something Bethel's never done before and I doubt anyone ever expected them to." Typically, when police dogs are retired, attempts are made to allow their former human partners to adopt them. In Officer Sherman's case, his partner was unable to adopt him. The Campus Safety spokesperson told us how Officer Sherman came to Bethel's campus: "One of our officers had gotten a lead about Officer Sherman and ran it by the rest of us during our weekly staff meeting. We all kind of looked at each other and just kind of knew the answer was yes, at least from all of us." The idea, which was originally proposed in mid-February, then had to be approved by the Office of Institutional Advancement before it could be set in motion. "When they came to us, I didn't know what good a K-9 unit would do for us," said an administrator from the institutional advancement office. "It didn't seem very practical to me. But they had a pretty convincing case, and in the end, they won." One of the campus safety officers added, "With a K-9 officer and another patrol vehicle, we can do so much more to help keep this campus the safe environment we all want it to be." Though the costs of this seem high, campus safety officers insist it is worth it. "We'll be able to crack down more on things like people parking in places they're not supposed to, driving too fast or not stopping at stop signs," said another officer. "We'll also be able to do more thorough checks of dorm rooms where use of alcohol, tobacco and such is suspected. I really think we can make this campus safer than it has ever been." The additional income from a higher volume of parking tickets and fines from moving violations is expected to help compensate for the cost of the vehicle. Within 5 years, Campus Safety believes it can earn back more than the cost of the vehicle in money assessed from tickets and fines alone. Additionally, Campus Safety plans to crack down on student use of substances not permitted under the Bethel lifestyle covenant. Officer Sherman has been trained to identify alcohol, tobacco, and many other types of drugs. "It would be nice if we could just assume everybody followed the rules and didn't do things they weren't supposed to," the student worker said. "I mean, we all did sign the lifestyle covenant. But realistically, there are people who consume substances and participate in activities that go directly against that covenant, and Officer Sherman will help the officers keep a closer watch on those types of things." Since the Durango is a standard for police K-9 units, it also comes equipped with a holding place for prisoners. "There's been some joking around our office about what to do with that," one of the officers said. "It's been suggested that the space be used for those who break curfew or skip chapel too many times, or for those people who get way too many parking tickets. But really, we're not sure what that will be used for yet. So students, don't do anything too crazy or stupid or else we just might put you in 'Bethel jail' for a night or two." The addition of Officer Sherman, a new K-9 vehicle, and two new patrol cars is certainly an exciting moment in history. One thing’s certainly clear. This surprising announcement and the rest of the “4-1 Project” almost seems too good to be true.  Especially considering that it was all announced on April 1… We thank the Bethel administration for all their hard work, and remember, have a very happy APRIL FOOL’S DAY!
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