Students and faculty may be confined to Zoom this quarter, but Highline’s Public Safety team has no plans to leave the campus behind.
Director of Public Safety David Menke and his team of officers aren’t going anywhere. Despite a closed down campus, he and his officers are still hard at work and patrolling Highline daily.
“Public Safety has continued to work on campus to ensure the safety of residents at Campus View as well as employees and students coming for approved labs,” Menke said.
Joining Highline in 2016 after spending 20 years in the U.S. Navy, Menke has led the Department of Public Safety since. His department works to keep Highline’s campus and students safe and secure.
Under normal circumstances, those students would be spending their days on that campus. But the COVID-19 pandemic has changed that.
Even with an empty campus, the team has had to take safety precautions.
“We have had to change some of our processes by conducting a self-screening and temperature check prior to coming on shift,” Menke said. “We have educated our team to this ever-changing virus and certified everyone as a contact tracer through Johns Hopkins University.”
Menke says that with campuses shut down, some colleges have experienced an increase in property crime. However, he notes that Highline hasn’t seen any uptick in crime as of yet.
That being said, this year’s events have still posed challenges to his officers.
One such challenge has been communicating with the local community.
“We have community members who do not always practice good social distancing or wear masks, but want to approach officers and interact with them,” Menke said. “This has been a continued education with the public and also letting community members know our campus is closed.”
Recent events have also led many in the community, and throughout the country, to voice concerns over police treatment of people of color.
Menke said the Public Safety team has been working to address these concerns.
“While Public Safety officers are not law enforcement officers, we understand the concerns around the treatment of people/students of color by law enforcement,” Menke said. “We continue to address our customer service and how we respond to incidents ensuring all parties are treated with dignity and respect.”
Additionally, Menke says that Public Safety staff have already received de-escalation training, and are working on plans to provide bias training to officers throughout the year.
“We are working to move away from the standard method of patrolling and instilling evidence-based practices to ensure trust with the community,” Menke said.
He also expressed a desire to educate not just his own officers going forward, but the surrounding community as well.
“We do not condone any interaction of community members based on biases or discriminative practices,” Menke said. “We want to educate callers that we will not respond unless there are concerning behaviors, not just descriptions based off color of skin or clothing.”