The University of Scranton Police Department sponsored its first annual Campus Safety Awareness Day on Tuesday.
University Police and several student services assembled to offer crime prevention tips, alcohol awareness, fire safety demonstrations and more on the DeNaples Center Patio from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. September is National Campus Safety Awareness month.
University Police Chief Donald Bergmann said the event is educational while designed to improve the relationship between students and law enforcement officials.
“(The goal of Campus Safety Awareness Day) is to promote safety, and University Police and demonstrate to students that we’re available and see ourselves as partners because safety is a shared responsibility,” Bergmann said.
The University Police Department has made progress including receiving accreditation from the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Agency Commission (PLEAC) on March 30, becoming one of just six private colleges in Pennsylvania with an accredited police force.
“All officers are sworn,” Bergmann said. “They have the authority to make an arrest, they’re armed and we are now an accredited agency… under Pa. Chiefs of Police.”
Some other changes within the department and around the University Bergmann mentioned include an extended video surveillance system off campus, alarmed exits and video surveillance in residence halls, active shooter training and “hopefully a campus-wide drill this spring.”
Several offices provided handouts and had demonstrations about various safety precautions and campaigns during the event.
At the Office of Equity and Diversity’s table, students were able to take a pledge to stand up to and speak out against sexual assault. The office also showed a video of student-athletes reiterating the message “It’s On Us” to encourage bystander intervention to prevent a sexual assault or harassment.
Parallel to that table was the Environmental Health and Safety Office’s display of an automated external defibrillator (AED), fire and back safety information and a digital fire extinguisher training demonstration.
Also, the Jane Kopus Women’s Center offered bystander engagement strategies, Student Government asked students for their suggestions about how to make campus safer, various law enforcement vehicles stood on display and several other agencies offered their services.
Students had the opportunity to try on “impairment goggles,” which distort the wearer’s vision to simulate the effects of heavy alcohol consumption on the body. While wearing the goggles, many students struggled to walk in a straight line and had problems driving a golf cart in a closed course.
First-year student Cameron Marker said wearing the goggles was fun, but he also saw the importance in alcohol awareness.
“I think it taught me a lesson for the future not to drink and drive or drink to the point where I’m impaired,” Marker said.
Two other Campus Safety Awareness Day spectacles that students enjoyed were the horses of the Lackawanna County Sheriff’s Office Mounted Unit. John Padula of the Mounted Unit said the horses are like friendly police cars that people want to touch, yet they are very useful for crowd control.
“He won’t do anything to harm you unless he’s told,” Padula said while straddling the blond horse Alex. “If he’s instructed to do something he’ll do it, but you can come here to him and he won’t do anything.”
University Police have worked closely with agencies such as Scranton Police many times and partnered with University offices like CHEW and the Jane Kopus Women’s Center before. Bergmann said it is important for local organizations to work together and emphasized that the relationship between law enforcement officers and students is a partnership.
“I think if everybody is aware of what’s going on and helps promote safety it’ll just be a better environment for students to go to school, enjoy the experience and not have to worry about being a victim,” Bergmann said.