Day in the life of Public Safety

Public Safety Officer Randy Jones
Public Safety Officer Randy Jones stands next to his patrol vehicle. He has worked as a Public Safety Officer at Kirkwood Community College since February of this year. PHOTO BY ANDREW SCHNEIDER

It’s still early on a sunny Monday morning when Kirkwood Community College Public Safety Officer Randy Jones receives a transmission from dispatch requesting he head to Linn Hall.

Someone found a pair of eyeglasses over the weekend and left them in an office. Jones describes how he is often sent to pick up wallets, debit cards, glasses. He adds, “I go out there, pick them up and bring them back to Public Safety.” It’s a routine task but for a student who has lost their glasses, laptop, car keys or some other important item it’s a life saver.

Back in the patrol car after collecting and turning in the eyeglasses, Jones radios dispatch. “I’ll be 10-8 from facilities. I’ll be back on vehicle patrol, north side of campus,” he says.

Jones’s patrol vehicle is equipped with an assortment of items that can assist in any given situation: An AED, a medical bag, a battery pack for jumpstarts, bolt cutters, caution tape, a fire extinguisher, a hardhat and safety vest (in case he needs to enter the Student Center construction zone), a raincoat, traffic cones, a vehicle unlock kit and an assortment of documents providing information needed in a variety of situations.

As he patrols campus, he keeps an eye out for a variety of issues such as safety concerns, stalled vehicles, signs of vandalism or theft, lost items and parking violations.

With the semester well underway, Jones comments that he now issues a lot fewer warnings for parking violations. The start of the semester was a different story.

“First couple days of school people are in a hurry, they’re running late, parking lots were full. So, people were parking at the end of the rows … Sometimes if one student does it then another student will think it’s ok, so they’ll do it. And you’ll end up with all kinds of cars in a row parked not in a parking space,” he explains.

The same applies to the grass. Jones mentions, “I left a couple cones … in the grass to keep people from parking in the grass. Once one person parks in the grass, then other people start parking in the grass.”

Unfortunately, sometimes individuals intentionally drive in the grass to cause damage. Jones then writes a vandalism report, and he finds it disappointing. As he points out the groundskeepers “do a lot of work on the grass and then someone tears it up.”

A little later in the morning, a semi-truck driver approaches the patrol vehicle to ask Jones for directions. The driver has a truckload of long metal pipes to deliver but can’t find the drop-off point. This happens on occasion when someone gets on campus by mistake or is not sure at which building to drop off a delivery.

Once Jones finishes giving directions, he continues his patrol and soon stops at The Kirkwood Hotel, which falls under the purview of Campus Safety. Jones likes to make a foot patrol of the hotel during his shift and keeps an eye out for any safety concerns.

While walking through a back hallway adjacent to the hotel kitchen Jones stops to have a brief chat with a baker and learns that the kitchen has an extra cake that was made for a canceled event. While conversations like this help break up the monotony of a slow day, they also help Jones keep abreast of anything new happening on campus.

Back on patrol, Jones sees a car with its hood up and thinks a student might need a jumpstart. As it turns out a person is selling their vehicle and the potential buyer is examining the engine.

The radio suddenly crackles, and dispatch asks Jones if he can stop by the Public Safety office. A student is there who needs to be guided to a building. Giving directions is a regular part of the job. Jones notes, “The other day I think I had four people within a couple hours looking for a particular building or [who] were lost.”

After guiding the student, Jones continues patrolling but suddenly notices a USPS mail truck driving down a campus road with smoke coming from under the hood. The driver pulls into a parking lot near the Facilities building.

With a laugh, Jones says, “There’s no smoking on campus.” He pulls in after the vehicle to make sure the driver is alright and he waits for a little while to make sure the still-smoking vehicle does not catch fire.

On the surface being a public safety officer might seem like a boring job that only requires driving through parking lots but as Jones acknowledges, “It’s just something different all the time.”

He prefers, though, that things not be too crazy, and says, “It’s nice to know what you’re supposed to be doing, instead of coming up with something that you’ve never experienced before.” Either way, he is grateful for the support of the public safety office. “If I have any questions … I’ve always got someone to lean on to help me out.”

Also, if necessary, Jones can rely on Kirkwood Resource Officer Landon Einck, who will become involved if there is an issue with a disruptive individual, a traffic accident, a medical emergency or a sensitive situation that requires a police officer.

Public Safety Officer Randy Jones photographs a damaged electrical outlet
Public Safety Officer Randy Jones photographs a damaged electrical outlet behind the Iowa Equestrian Center on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. PHOTO BY ANDREW SCHNEIDER

Regarding his background, Jones relates, “I joined the Marine Corps for six years after high school and did some security on a nuclear aircraft carrier.” Jones went on to take classes at Kirkwood eventually pursuing a criminal justice degree at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids. Afterward, he spent 23 years at the Duane Arnold Energy Center, a nuclear power plant in Palo, where he worked his way up, starting as a security officer and eventually landing in the training department as a Senior Nuclear Security Analyst.

With the recent decommissioning of the nuclear plant, Jones needed new employment and took a position with Per Mar Security Services resulting in his assignment at Kirkwood’s main campus in February of this year.

Not long after the smoking USPS vehicle incident Officer Jones receives a call from dispatch asking that he go to a campus building near the Public Safety office. A number from that building has dialed 911 but no one was on the line to speak with the 911 operator. Whenever a 911 call is made from campus Public Safety is alerted. Upon arriving at the building, Jones talks to the staff members in the office where the call originated and learns the number was dialed accidentally.

Once Jones is sure nothing is amiss, he climbs back in the patrol vehicle and drives to the south side of campus on a new assignment. Behind Kirkwood’s Iowa Equestrian Center, he stops to take a few photographs for a report – someone has accidentally run into and broken an electrical outlet. Jones hadn’t noticed the outlet earlier in the day and wonders, “How did I do that? … [I] drove passed all those [other outlets]. I didn’t see this one over here. Interesting. Yep, it’s broke.”

Shortly before noon Jones stops for lunch. So far today he has not had to do any jumpstarts, vehicle unlocks or had to help a student with a stalled vehicle. No underground gas lines have been accidentally cut and no storms have knocked out power (both situations Jones has encountered).

It’s hard to say what the afternoon will bring but Jones is ready. As he explains, “We’re out here to help people with finding buildings, classes, unlocks, vehicles or anything for that matter. If they need to talk to somebody about a particular issue and they don’t know where to go, we can help them out with that. If I don’t know, I can certainly find out on the radio where I can get that person some help.”

Image courtesy of Andrew Schneider

Categories: Feature