ASST. CAMPUS LIFE EDITOR
“Would you like some tea? Maybe some water?” asks Campus Safety Office Manager Jessica Aparicio, her eyes bright as she holds up a jar of peppermint tea.
“This is my favorite,” she says, before putting the jar of tea bags down and tidying up some papers on her desk. Behind her hangs a corkboard decorated with cards, a calendar and LA Dodgers paraphernalia. She looks up, unsmiling but the corners of her mouth are slightly upturned. Aparicio has Guillain Barre Syndrome, which has caused the lower half of her face to be paralyzed; she cannot smile.
As the Office Manager, Jessica Aparicio handles the clerical paperwork, manages the event calendar and orders supplies when needed. Aparicio ensures rooms are open and closed on time and is in charge of incoming freshmen IDs. Aparicio also discusses court appeals with students who have received citations.
“Every other Wednesday is court, so students, faculty, staff [and] visitors [who] have received a citation will come and discuss the appeal with me, since I’m not an officer,” says Aparicio. “I’m the neutral person.” Aparicio turns in her chair and grabs a citation from a file organizer. She holds up the pink and yellow paper. “This is what it looks like,” she says while turning the paper with scrawled handwriting.
In the dispatch area just beyond Aparicio’s office, voices crackle through radio static as officers make their way in through the waiting room to the kitchen and dispatch areas. “Most of the violations are [when] students tend to park on a visitor’s space,” Aparicio says. “We do a lot of campus tours and when parents come those spaces are unavailable.” Aparicio puts the citation back in its basket before brushing her hair behind her ear.
“Some of them will call and say ‘can I get a grace period,’ you know, ‘I couldn’t find [a parking space].’ Aparicio says. “Especially commuters, ‘I didn’t find a parking space but can I leave it here for about an hour and then I’ll move it right away’ and usually dispatch will say ‘yeah, go ahead and leave it there.’ They’ll notify the officers, you know, ‘a student with this license plate and parking decal number has been authorized to leave it there for an hour’. Once class is over they’ll move it. We try to work with the students as much as possible.”
“[For] streets we don’t really do parking citations, its usually Whittier PD. They tend to look for violations where students are parked in a red or handicap zone. That’s not just a school violation but that’s a state law.” Aparicio mentions her son is learning how to drive. “Sometimes they do have a handicap permit, and just forgot to put their handicap placard on, so they’ll come in,” she says. “I usually tell students after their first violation, when in doubt [or] if you’re not sure, call. Dispatch is here 24/7.”
“For the most part, I’ll always try to accommodate the students, [because] I know you guys have class and work and some students have 2 to 3 jobs, so I try to accommodate as much as I possibly can,” Aparicio says softly. “I try to remember what it was like to be a student.”
“Having to…,” Aparicio trails off, her chest swelling slightly she breathes in before letting out a soft sigh. “When you know that a student has had more than one violation and it’s a similar violation, I have to tell them ‘I’m sorry I can’t dismiss your citation,’ Aparicio says her eyes downcast. “That’s the hardest part. Some of them may be struggling financially, some of them were maybe having a really tough day, but you know that you’ve already seen them once already. I can’t do anything, but I can talk to somebody else and see what I can do.”
Aparicio pulls up a program that allows her to give location access to ID cards and glances at her wallpaper. “That’s my son,” she says brightly, pointing at the grinning boy on her desktop.
“There’s one thing I do enjoy, you never know what each day is going to be like. Even though I work in the office, every day is different,” says Aparicio. “Right now I’m ordering stuff for commencement, ordering message boards for all the department and notifying the shuttles transporting parents. You don’t have a dull moment working with students.” The phone rings shrilly underneath several camera screens. The hum of a printing machine almost drowns out the sound of someone’s nails against a keyboard and the clangs of keys follow heavy footsteps traversing carpeted floors.
“This is the main dispatch computer right here,” says Dispatcher Meynard Raflores as he points to the computer in the center of a desk filled with files, forms and receipts. Raflores points to the computers on his right. “These are the monitors [where] every call activities are logged in.” Under the window sits the officer radio which is linked up with facilities and RAs on duty. To Raflores’ left sits the backup computer and the ID printer. Whoever is on duty as a dispatcher is in charge of incoming and transferring calls, completing call logs, assisting those who approach the window, monitoring the cameras, and printing out IDs if needed.
An out of breath woman approaches the window, her forehead damp from the heat outside, asking about acquiring a guest pass for a visiting speaker. The phone rings. Raflores apologizes to the woman who nods and begins to fan herself slightly. As Raflores answers the call an officer radios in, his voice cackling through the speaker.
“Whittier College Campus Safety Raflores speaking,” he says into the receiver. A high pitched voice replies through the static. “Please hold,” he says into the phone’s speaker before reaching across the desk to answer the radio call. “Go ahead,” he says before transferring the phone call. The woman pulls up an email on her phone, waiting patiently with another request as another officer radios in. “10-4” Raflores says before asking, “What’s the license plate?” Raflores reaches in front of him for a pen before issuing the guest pass.
Raflores leans back into the chair, which wobbles slightly with the sudden force of his weight. Raflores laughs dryly before taking a sip of Starbucks cup and turning to glance at the cameras. “Sometimes it gets busy so you have to prioritize, of course emergencies are our priority. Safety is priority, so anything that has safety issues of course that would be something we go off first. And it also depends, like our old boss used to say ‘bodies before buildings.’ Depending on the call, especially in the later afternoon or night, if we have a student requesting for a ride versus something else like handling a building then of course we want to aid a student or we will assist them first,” says Raflores.
“Whittier College Campus Safety Raflores Speaking,” Raflores says into the speaker. “Okay, please hold.” Raflores grabs a directory sheet before transferring the call. “If you were just to call from your phone or at home and dial the number it’s going to go through here, This is a general number and I [would] transfer you.”
“People do come in here if you need to take an ID picture or when people come in to speak about their tickets, I mean it’s not like were hiding,” says Raflores with a hearty chuckle.
Officers have to learn how to be dispatchers as well. “Even officer-wise you [have] to learn the system because if there are only three of us working someone has to cover my lunch or my break,” says Raflores. “If there’s no student or there’s nobody else in the office then it has to be one of the Campus Safety officers. We’re here 24/7 so there’s always a dispatcher and officers out there on the field.” Raflores puts back the directory sheet and shifts in his seat.
“Sometimes [people] think ‘oh, you’re just answering the calls’ but if they knew the different functions that we do all at the same time…’ Raflores pauses before smiling. “Just know that we’re not just sitting there,” Raflores says with chuckles that interrupt his sentence.
Just beyond the dispatch area, in the front of the waiting room lies the Corporal’s office. To the far right hangs a calendar with the names of officers and their specific days for supervising. Lieutenant Flavio Sanchez sits at the corporal’s desk which is tidy, but stacked with paperwork. “My duties are to make sure everything runs smoothly,” Sanchez says, his shoulders tense.
“This is an ASP baton and this is a pepper gun,” Sanchez says as he pulls the items from his belt. For every item there are different certifications and training needed in order to possess and use them. Sanchez sits with his back straight, his eyes soft but intense. “I make sure everything is up to date with policies,” he says, explaining that he is the one who makes sure the officers’ certifications are valid. The Annual Security and Fire Safety Report which contains important information regarding campus security policies, crime and fire statistics, and emergency program information is available on the Campus Safety’s website and was sent as an email October first of this year. The ASR can be requested in the office as well.
“Our policies are derived from the student handbook. Escorts, violations; how we chose to deal with it is all in the student handbook.”