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A Student’s Experience, New Security Updates on Campus

New updates to campus security include Kindles at every entrance point, customer service training for officers, and a brand new security system. PHOTO/ Brooklyn College
New updates to campus security include Kindles at every entrance point, customer service training for officers, and a brand new security system. PHOTO/ Brooklyn College

By Zainab Iqbal

Published: March 14th, 2018

The debate over ID card checking while entering the Brooklyn College campus has been a long one. Some students forget their ID cards, some ID cards aren’t validated, and some just don’t want to take them out of their bags because of the inconsistency. So how does everyone get along?

According to Brooklyn College’s Head of Campus Security and Public Safety Donald Wenz, ID cards are supposed to be checked every time someone enters campus. He can’t say whether ID cards are or aren’t checked, as he isn’t “standing outside every entrance 24/7.” But his impression is they probably are not checked because of the workload—there’s not a lot of personnel. And the infrastructure doesn’t give officers the capability of being able to read the ID card.

“For arguments sake, if you were to go to Baruch you you can have your ID scanned in, swiped in. We don’t have that capability here,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s going to happen, we’re exploring, reducing the number of entrances for students to come to if you don’t have your ID,” Wenz said, “so that we could double up at those locations and just have one officer dealing with visitors coming and students that forgot their ID.”

On Monday, Feb. 26 at 5 p.m., Christopher Mejia, a Brooklyn College student, left James Hall to go to the East Quad for a class. As he was entering the East Quad, a campus security officer, David Mercado, asked him for his ID card. According to Mejia, he showed him his ID card and the officer said, “I need you to prove that you go to school here.” Last semester, we reported that of the 14 complaints against the Public Safety and Campus Security office in 2017, two were against Mercado.

Mejia said he took out his syllabus and showed it to Mercado, but that was not enough. The officer asked to see his schedule, and when Mejia told him he goes to school here, the officer responded that he knows and still needs him to prove it.

Mejia told the Excelsior that he then crossed the street back to the West Quad and asked to speak to the supervisor. He did not remember the supervisor’s name, but the supervisor apparently told Mejia to “step away.”

“We’re already far away. And I say ‘Am I going to hurt you or something?’ and he says ‘Oh no, no you’re not,’” Mejia said.  “And I’m like, I’m calling you to fix the situation and help me, and you’re telling me to step away?”

The encounter bothered Mejia so much that he went to the basement in Ingersoll Hall to file a complaint. According to Mejia, an officer told him “You’re just mad you got caught because you didn’t validate your ID.”

“And I said ‘Caught? Don’t use that word. Because then you’re implying that I was doing something wrong. And if you’re implying I didn’t validate my ID, then you didn’t do your job for three consecutive semesters because I was entering and exiting this campus for three consecutive semesters using the same ID,’” Mejia said.

When we asked why he didn’t validate his ID card, Mejia said he didn’t know he had to, as he’d been using the same ID card for three semesters and had never been stopped and asked before. Mejia said he views this as “a way of policing on campus.”

The Excelsior asked Wenz about the incident, and he said he could not comment because it’s an ongoing investigation—the student filed a civilian complaint.

When someone files a civilian complaint, it goes to the lieutenant officer to investigate. The officer conducts the investigation and submits it to Wenz, who then reviews it. If Wenz has any questions or believes something was missed, the lieutenant officer would go back and address those concerns. After that, Wenz will make the final decision to whether or not “the officer was at fault either intentionally or unintentionally, and whether or not disciplinary action should be taken,” he said.

The issue of students feeling “targeted” is a big one, too, though Wenz has never received a formal complaint that he could recall of a student feeling that way.

“Why did they feel targeted? Do they feel targeted because their ID wasn’t validated? Well, that’s why they were targeted, because you didn’t have a valid ID card,” Wenz said.

Wenz wants students to know that if anybody ever feels they are subject to some sort of bias, he’d want to know about it right away to conduct an investigation.  He then spoke about customer service. Customer service is being able to do the job the way it’s supposed to be done, but by being respectful towards the individual at the same time.

“We’re going to look at increasing our training in customer service,” he said. “We don’t feel they get enough of that in the public safety academy, so that’s something that we want on campus to be able to do.”

If students simply forget their ID cards at home, or did not get a chance to validate them, Wenz suggests using the BC Navigator app. An electronic ID is stored within the app, and can be used to enter campus. It is always kept updated and validated every semester.

In the following weeks, Public Safety will be meeting with Student Affairs to discuss how to better advertise the BC Navigator app so students, faculty, and staff can make use of it.

Public Safety has also been supplied with Kindles from the Brooklyn College Information Technology Services (ITS). Students who don’t have their ID cards—or have yet to get them validated—can provide the officer with their name and EMPLID. The officer will put the information in the Kindle to see if the student is currently registered. Another suggestion Wenz has for students is the traditional lanyard they can put around their ID so they do not lose it.

“Later this week, I am going to be meeting with my command staff and then we’re going meet with Student Affairs,” Wenz said, “on how we can better serve the campus community, make this transition of showing ID cards easier, [and] getting the word out.”

Another campus security update is a brand new security system and it’s helping out a lot, Wenz said.

“Even some of the officers don’t like it because I could put a supervisor in there,” Wenz said. “I can look at every entry coming on to this campus, and I can see whether an officer is doing their job or not.”

Wenz can put an extra supervisor in the console to look at the cameras rather than making them go around campus to see whether officers are checking ID cards or suspicious packages. Wenz believes it’s also a great tool to have when looking at incidents on campus, because it would “more than likely capture it on the video somewhere,” and they’ll be able to get descriptions of people and number plates of cars.

Another update is the new Tow Center for the Performing Arts coming to campus. According to Wenz, President Michelle Anderson “has given her blessing to additional officers being hired to cover that.” The new entry location would be “state of the art.”

The issue of having more or less security on campus is a big one among students. Wenz believes that because of the world we currently live in now, security is a necessity.

“It’s important that our staff, our students, and our faculty come here and feel safe,” Wenz said. “For argument’s sake, you can’t go to the central office on 42nd street. I can’t even get there with my CUNY ID, because I don’t have an ID for that building, I have to be signed in. It’s a way of life nowadays.”

“We all wish we didn’t have to, but unfortunately that’s the way the world is now, and security is a paramount importance,” he said.

Sometimes students show their MetroCards or their Starbucks card when entering campus, perhaps because they’re in a hurry. Wenz believes it has all to do with respect.

“Would a student who is traveling on an airline present their Starbucks card to the TSA? No they just wouldn’t do it,” he said.

Despite the current inconsistency of ID card checking on campus, Wenz says they should be checked every time.

“It is our job to make sure that this campus is safe for our students, staff, and faculty,” he said. “And that the only people that are on this campus are those that belong on the campus, whether they be staff, students, faculty, or visitors coming to campus.”

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