BW students express differing opinions on campus police presence

While some Baldwin Wallace students find the police on campus comforting, others are concerned about their access.

Baldwin Wallace University often boasts its close relationship with the Berea Police Department, and while some students see the strong police presence on campus as a sign of safety, some students have expressed to The Exponent that it may have the opposite effect.   

One such student is Declan Shields, a sophomore international student studying abroad from England, who said that he experienced a change of environment in moving from a university where they only have security guards, and where police officers don’t carry guns.  

“It just feels a lot more aggressive,” Shields said. “It feels like they’re watching you, even if you’re not doing anything wrong.”  

Shields was unaware of any particular arrangement between the school and the local police department but noticed its heavy presence on campus.  

Shields also said that the access police have to the residence halls and BW buildings only adds to his discomfort.   

“To be honest, seeing police officers patrol the campus makes me feel on edge and not actually safer,” Shields said.   

Gary Black, director of Safety and Security, said that the BPD performs various functions for the University.  

“[BPD is] here a lot, they work in addition to their normal patrols, but they do extra things too. They work sporting events, special details and other stuff in addition to to their normal patrols” Black said.   

According to Black, the close relationship allows campus safety and security the opportunity to communicate with the Berea PD quickly in case of emergencies.   

“If we have a person on campus that might be exhibiting mental health issues, intoxicated people, trespassers, or any number of situations, we [will] call [BPD],” Black said.  

Black said that the BW campus is a “safe place” and those things do not happen often, but he sees the relationship between the police and Safety and Security as an opportunity to improve campus safety. When an issue does come up, there are benefits to having a quick connection to the police, Black said.  

Other students such Maya Norman, the Black Girls Rock chair of the Black Student Alliance campus organization, said that while the close relationship between BW and the Berea PD is strange, they ultimately do not mind it.  

“When I think of the Berea Police or Safety and Security, it’s more like ‘Who’s giving me this parking ticket?’ rather than, ‘These people are going to help me with my safety,’” Norman said.  

Norman said that she finds that the extra security officers deal mostly with trivial matters but can provide a little extra comfort and piece of mind. However, she  said that a strong police presence at nighttime can prompt slight unease.   

“When I’m in rehearsals or in my dorm building, especially late at night during rehersalts, it is weird to see them walking through there,” Norman said.   

Norman said seeing the police makes her wonder what is wrong or why they are there, but beyond that, she does not have many interactions with the police on campus.  

In addition to the safety benefits, Berea Chief of Police Dan Clarke believes that the strong relationship with the BW campus gives them the opportunity to get to know the students in the community and work on different programs with the school.  

Clarke said he had the opportunity to work on the MLK week programing with Erika Walker Smith and Xaiver Harkness and consistently works closely with President Bob Helmer.   

“I think I’ve learned that maybe I can’t affect change on a federal level, or the state level, but I think communities are where it starts,” Clarke said.