Mackenzee Simms / Contributing Writer
Despite the Department of Public Safety’s constant presence on campus, many students remain unfamiliar with the police department at Samford.
According to Samford interim Police Chief Scott Leigh, Samford’s public safety department operates as a full service police department. All of the police officers are certified as Alabama Peace Officers, and most have over 25 years of experience working for the police departments of Homewood, Hover, Birmingham and Jefferson County. Although the school’s campus is within the jurisdiction of Homewood, Samford’s police department operates independently.
“The city of Homewood has their police department and we’re surrounded by them and Samford has their own police department,” Leigh said. “So you kind of have double security is the way I look at it.”
The police at Samford have all the responsibility and authority that a larger department would, as well as providing services that go beyond the typical duties of the police such as jump starting student’s cars.
”We do everything from investigations on any crimes that occur on campus to working traffic accidents. We assist the community, students, faculty and anyone on campus,” Leigh said. “We might jump start your car, or we do a report on if your car is broken into. Everything from A to Z, Just like any other police department.”
In addition, Samford has police patrolling the campus 24/7. There are two officers at a minimum on-duty on Samford’s campus at all times. One works at the gate and one patrols the campus in a police vehicle, but the number of officers can be up to 4 or 5 depending on the day. Leigh cites the constant police presence on campus as a large deterrent to crime and a great asset of the university.
“You have to put yourself into the mind of a criminal, or somebody who is thinking about breaking the law,” Leigh said. “You see a police officer, you’re probably not going to do it right. So yes, it’s a huge deterrent, and it makes the place that much safer.”
Because there is at least one officer constantly patrolling campus, the police can respond to a distress call within a matter of minutes. Any student that feels unsafe traversing campus for any reason can request a safety escort to accompany them to their destination safely.
“If anybody feels unsafe or maybe a little scared, maybe it’s late at night and they’re walking to and from a location, all they have to do is call us,” Leigh said. “We’ll send an officer over there and pick them up and give them a ride to wherever they’re going. That’s not a problem at all.”
In an effort to educate students about their safety, Leigh and the Samford Department of Public Safety are trying to start a class called “Situational Awareness” which would talk more about crime on and off campus, what to do and not do in emergencies, places to avoid off-campus and how to report any crimes. The purpose of the class isn’t to scare anyone or inspire paranoia.
“I just want (students) to have that thought in the back of their mind. Be vigilant,” Leigh said. “You need to know what’s going on around you to be safe. And that’s just coming from my experience, and the police officers’ experience of actually dealing with the public for years and years and years. We know what’s going on out there. We want to teach what we taught our own kids.”
Leigh said he also also wants to equip students with the resources and knowledge that will help them the most during an emergency.
“We’re just trying to pass the word, so they’ll have a tool in the back of their mind, so that if something happens then they’ll know how to react and they’ll know what to do in case of emergency.”
Leigh encourages any student that has questions about the police department or safety on campus to visit the Department of Public Safety.
“I always tell people: If you’re unsure, or a little nervous, or intimidated, you can come by our office, and sit down and talk with us,” Leigh said.