As students and employees meet each Tuesday for Devotional—the largest weekly gathering on campus-—BYU-Idaho Public Safety takes many precautions to ensure the safety of all who attend. It’s no small task, and requires the help of both full-time and student officers.
“We get as many of our security officers there as we can and try to be as visible as possible,” said Director of Public Safety Stephen Bunnell. “We will also coordinate with the Rexburg Police Department in our security efforts.”
Precautions aren’t just taken to prevent criminal threats. The Public Safety Office coordinates with the Madison County Fire Department and insures medical professionals are onsite to be prepared for any emergency.
With the rise of campus shootings in the United States, Bunnell said that his office takes steps to be proactive against such threats. The Public Safety Office works closely with the students and employees to identify people of concern before they even become a threat.
“We rely heavily on our student body to notify us of suspicious activity and they are really good about letting us know if they see something uncomfortable,” Bunnell said.
Bunnell added that law enforcement agencies constantly review social media content to flag any threats to public safety. A few months ago, Bunnell received a call from another law enforcement agency concerning a threatening post a BYU-Idaho student made on Facebook. Upon contacting the student, investigators found out it was prank, and the student was immediately removed from campus.
The Public Safety Office has undergone a significant change in identity within the last year to match the changing standards in the industry. The office’s title changed from Safety and Security to Public Safety. According to Bunnell, several police and security departments have also adopted the title of “public safety” to take the emphasis off of policing and focus more on protecting. In addition, patrol car decals were revamped and new uniforms were issued—yellow to student officers and blue to full-time armed officers.
“The new name better reflects the university’s mission. We’re not just here to shake doors and address people causing a problem. Most of the things we do are service related. It’s a softer image and a more service-oriented attitude,” Bunnell said.
For Patrol Supervisor Doug Barker, providing service is the highlight of his job. The patrol division within the Public Safety Office provides a variety of services, including car jump starts, unlocking cars for those who locked their keys in the car, and safety escorts after dark to any location on campus or off campus within a one block radius.
“We do a lot of service. We respond to emergency calls, we’re present at medical calls, we do a lot of outward service for the students and employees on this campus. And then there’s the not-so-thankful part where we have to investigate theft and other offenses,” Barker said.
Theft is a recurring problem that increases in the evening hours, according to Bunnell. Though officers check all doors at night to ensure they are locked, Bunnell urges employees to lock their cars, offices, and their computers.
“Some folks feel safe, and they won’t lock their doors. We even have some people that actively work against us and set up ways to not be able to lock their office door because they don’t want to have to carry a key—which is really a minimal inconvenience for them,” Bunnell said.
Student and full-time officers work together to lock-up campus at night. They also patrol campus on a 24/7 watch, including holidays. Currently, the Public Safety Office employs 10 full-time armed officers and 58 student employees. In 2017 Public Safety responded to 5,042 calls for service.
To view crime and fire logs as well as other public safety information visit www.byui.edu/university-operations/public-safety.