Since I’m working abroad this summer, it’s always nice to get updates from the Farm. However, I couldn’t help but facepalm upon opening up Gmail this evening to find not one, but FOUR emails from the Stanford Police regarding an escaped prisoner. Sigh. Now, I could take a jab or make a joke here, but I’d prefer to take it as an opening for some long-needed dialogue.
Stanford students, by and large, do not take the Stanford Police seriously, and this perception reduces the safety of Stanford students.
It’s pretty easy to understand why Stanford students are disillusioned. Stanford is lucky to have a very low crime rate, so university-wide alerts are rare. What this means for our police is that every alert is read with scrutiny. Thus, when 3 of only a handful of alerts per year warn us about “hot prowls” and Indian men smelling of apples, there’s ample cause for skepticism.
It also troubles me personally that I get duplicates of every notification. This suggests a lack of robustness in their alert system, which makes me feel like I’m getting the message intended for some hapless student stranded in the physics basement. From a nerd’s standpoint, it’s also upsetting that whoever is coding AlertSU is probably using an inferior Container class when really they should have used a Set to avoid duplication… but I digress.
The fact of the matter is that, from an absolute standpoint, the Stanford Police actually keeps us very safe. After all, the greatest danger to a Stanford student is, unfortunately, the Stanford student.
Saving Us from Ourselves
The main reason it bugs me when people don’t respect the Stanford Police is that they then extend this to everything the police stand for. Bike lights. Stopping at stop signs. Responsible drinking. I know I probably sound like a nag here, but I’ve had too many friends come home bleeding after dark from some failed combination of the three.
I’m also frankly pleased with the strong presence of the police at busy on-campus events like Exotic Erotic. While I hope that my friends and I will never need their help, it’s always comforting knowing that those students who do push their limits will have trained professionals taking care of them right away. So if treating those saviors for sloshed students with respect is gonna cost me the few seconds of stopping at a stop sign, so be it.
I want Stanford students to have greater cause for confidence in our police, because I think that once we believe in their authority, we’ll also have greater cause to watch out for one another.
If it is, indeed, a numbers game, then the Stanford police should notify students of all their successes to balance out their foibles. But everyone knows that the moment you become that spammer guy on the dorm chatlist, nobody takes you seriously again. (Seriously, dude, stop trying to sell me your psych books.) So that’s out.
However, one thing that could really help would be to start from the bottom up with education on what our police actually does. New Student Orientation has plenty of time for in-dorm instruction, and considering recent dorms’ great success in promoting safety among their residents (I’m looking at you, Larkin ’11-’12), I think a fifteen minute spiel on What the Stanford Police Do For You could do wonders.
We, the students, also aren’t exempt from some scrutiny. To those of you who don’t use bike lights: um, seriously? They cost max $10, and they’re free at NSO. Man up. Additionally, unless you are James Dean or Steve McQueen, I think you can afford to take a few seconds to pause at a stop sign.
Hot prowls and all, the police are there to help you. So the next time you see a Stanford officer, treat the situation with respect.
Unless he smells like apples. In which case, RUN.