One month. Three reported security breaches.
The year started with the arrest of Christopher Benton near the Thornton Administration Center, followed by two reported instances where unaffiliated adult males harassed female students. In these cases, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) responded quickly, but safety still remains in question for some students.
Furthermore, how does DPS compare to a city-run police force like the L.A. County Sherriff’s Department (LACSD)?
While DPS staff declined an interview, they directed questions to Senior Director of Public Affairs Jerry Derloshon.
“Both DPS and Los Angeles [County] Sherriff’s Department … are committed to providing and maintaining a safe and secure environment within the Pepperdine community,” Derloshon wrote to the Graphic. “The two entities regularly work closely with one another. The primary difference is that [LACSD] serves the broader safety concerns of the population of Los Angeles County while DPS focuses on the Pepperdine community.”
Derloshon says DPS officers are not equipped with a gun like their LACSD counterparts and that in cases of emergency they would require assistance from the LACSD.
“DPS officers are not armed in the course of performing their normal duties,” Derloshon said. “Plans and best practice models for effectively implementing an armed response to extreme emergencies are in place and practiced in coordination with [LACSD] and other state and federal law enforcement agencies.”
Freshman Kellen McGee was one of the students harassed by an individual who not only trespassed on campus, but entered the Banowsky dorm. McGee said the incident was traumatic.
“On campus, I still sometimes feel nervous at night,” McGee said. “But most of the time, I’m not alone and I have friends around me.”
McGee commended DPS’ emergency response.
Derloshon agrees that DPS handled last week’s breaches in security well.
“Student safety has always been a top priority at Pepperdine and the university has a strong track record in keeping members of the campus community safe,” Derloshon said. “Our students and DPS coordinated extremely well in last week’s incidents. The students quickly alerting DPS resulted in both individuals being located right away and removed from campus.”
Furthermore, Derloshon said DPS has “stringent hiring requirements” for all positions, and that “the majority of officers come to Pepperdine with backgrounds in civic or military police work and/or service within the fire safety or medical profession.”
Derloshon went on to describe the role of DPS in light of recent events.
The Department of Public Safety serves Pepperdine students and all members of the university community,” Derloshon said. “The department reminds members of the community to remain vigilant and watchful and not to become complacent about safety. Remember also that Public Safety offers 24-hour security escorts.”