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Pub Safe CSOs: Who are Public Safety’s student workers?


Recently, the Public Safety Department at St. Olaf has been expanding its student workforce. Currently, Public Safety employs about 30 students, five of which are Community Service Officers (CSOs). The presence of these student officers has provoked questions from other students on campus — what jobs do they do? What is the motivation behind the creation of this role, and how long has it existed for? 


Public Safety’s student employees consist of student phone dispatchers, an administrative assistant, and five CSOs. All student employees serve under Public Safety’s nine full-time, professional officers. 


The CSOs occupy a role that is distinctly different from that of the Public Safety officers. The Olaf Messenger conducted an interview with Director of Public Safety Derek Kruse and Assistant Director of Public Safety Zita Toth Gaddis to learn more about the CSO program. 


Gaddis said that the CSOs assist Public Safety officers in a variety of tasks, namely unlocking and locking buildings, doing building walk-throughs and checks, and issuing temporary, overnight, or seven-day parking permits. They also assist in various miscellaneous tasks such as car jumpstarts and on-campus transports. Kruse said that, overall, the CSOs are helpful in relieving “some of the responsibilities from officers for doing more mundane tasks,” allowing the officers to focus on responding to more serious calls. Gaddis and Kruse added that the CSOs are not responsible for issuing parking tickets or responding to serious emergencies. 


CSOs are also used for the Safe Walk service, which provides on-campus walking escorts to students who are concerned for their safety while walking at night. Kruse said he hopes that having peers available to walk, as opposed to full-time officers, will lead more students to take advantage of the service, which is not frequently utilized.  


The CSOs do have access to Public Safety vehicles, but they use a separate squad of cars labeled “Campus Safety/EMS.” Their light bar is orange, as opposed to the blue color used by Public Safety officers. These vehicles are shared with the campus EMTs. Their uniforms consist of a bright yellow shirt with a “Community Service Officer” patch. 


The CSO program has existed in the past, but, according to Kruse, it was discontinued when he was hired in 2022. So, he hired two CSOs in 2023 as a “pilot program,” saying that “it’s definitely been a slow rollout…we’re ready to make it an official program and increase the amount of students that we hire.” He added that the officers have appreciated the presence of the CSOs.


“There are times when we have one officer working, and we get a lot of requests for transfers around campus and permits that can take up a lot of their time, so we can get stretched pretty thin,” Kruse said. He hopes that the CSO program will increase Public Safety response time and effectiveness. 


Kruse and Gaddis also said that the CSOs play a role in Public Safety’s goal of community engagement. Kruse said that student employees are “our first line as far as helping to correct misinformation [about Public Safety operations]” within the student body. 


Kruse added that the college has “historically had quite a bit of reliance on student employees to develop and grow, and build experience that you can take to future careers.” Gaddis also stressed the idea that the CSO program can help students in their professional development. 


So, with the expansion of the CSO program, students should expect to see more Public Safety presence on campus in the future, and should know that many non-emergency calls to Public Safety could be fulfilled by student workers.