Public Safety Beat: Continuing Operations on a Changed Campus

This time last month, life was “business as usual” for LMU Public Safety officers. The bustling Westchester campus of more than 8,000 kept the staff busy with the everyday operations, such as performing routine patrols, conducting safety trainings, responding to minor medical calls, and reminding students about the upcoming spring break (“Don’t forget, you’ll be gone a whole week. Have you locked your bike? Secured your valuables?”).

Seemingly overnight, the routine was thrown upside down with the fast-moving domestic spread of COVID-19. Now, DPS officers are part of a skeleton crew remaining on the bluff, working to maintain a sense of normalcy on a changed campus. Only those students, staff and Jesuit community members with permission can get on the campus.

Javier Leal, a watch commander with nearly three decades of serving the LMU community, said, “I cannot recall at any point in my 29 years here, where [a global situation impacted the] university in this manner.”

In the early days of the spread, the university had to continually pivot and adapt, as directives from county, state, and national health advisors evolved. With those changes, DPS officers had the added challenge of preserving the health and well-being of the community, as they followed unprecedented government-issued guidelines to help students move out and secure a nearly empty campus.

Now, officers are among the few essential staff still coming to campus to ensure critical functions remain up and running. They must work to ensure the safety of the campus, with regular patrols of all buildings and residence halls, as well as support the health of the small population of students and staff remaining.

“It’s a huge undertaking, because the challenges are ever-changing, and our officers must consider their own well-being as well [while simultaneously taking care of the community],” said Leal.

But with the challenges come positive silver linings. “The concern for everyone’s well-being, no matter who it is, is wonderful,” Leal added. “It’s nice to see everyone working toward the same goal, which is to maintain our community health any way we can. I have not seen this level of togetherness among departments in quite some time.”

Like students, staff and faculty, the officers are equally eager to get back to normal. “It is too quiet here!” added Captain Terry McAllister ’85. “I enjoy seeing the campus bustling and students enjoying their time here. We’re just hoping that this situation improves as quickly as possible.”

When asked if there was anything further they’d like to convey, Leal and McAllister expressed the same sentiment felt by so many Lions, now spread out across the globe. “Thank and show your gratitude for the nurses, doctors, medical staff, paramedics, ambulance drivers, police officers and all first responders who are actually fighting this war for all of us. Thank the grocery store clerks, the late-night shelf stockers who are working and dodging this virus to help keep food on our shelves at home. Take care of your loved ones by taking care of you – stay home, and stay healthy – it will help more than you can ever imagine.”