Protecting Students, Staff and Community
Marymount California University possesses some of the most breathtaking vistas of university campuses: its Oceanview Campus encompasses 26-acres that overlook the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., located about 25 miles from downtown Los Angeles. It is as peaceful as it sounds and looks, and its low-crime statistics reflect that.
“We are mostly crime-free, but we still communicate security’s value to ensure we remain crime-free by addressing any potential threats before they become a crisis or emergency,” says Hector Rodriguez, director of public safety and security for MCU. He is responsible for emergency and disaster management, crime prevention, parking and traffic enforcement, security escort services and property patrol. He, along with his team, help ensure the safety and security of the MCU campus, The Villas, where students reside, up to 940 students, faculty, staff, as well as many more aspects of MCU.
Rodriguez has more than 29 years of public safety experience. Previously, he was lieutenant, deputy chief of police for the Los Angeles Unified School District, chief of police for the Santa Ana Unified School District and a public safety and education consultant. He has overseen K9 operations, firearms training, traffic safety and technology units. Rodriguez is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, as well as the Los Angeles Police Department’s West Point Leadership Program. He received a high ranking in the L.A. School Police Department, which gave him many insights on engaging in security practices at a campus, ultimately preparing him for his current role at MCU.
“Education has always been a part of my life,” he says. “To be in an environment where learning is taking place, where young people come to discover their place, it is invigorating and exciting. There is a lot of activity here, and it takes me back to my own college days where I experienced those same feelings of freedom and liberation, learning and understanding the world better. It’s a great place to be.”
Ensuring students experience freedom comes with substantial responsibility, notes Rodriguez. “Many of the risks and challenges we encounter here are driven by the violence and crises people see on television or online,” he says. “One of the biggest concerns in higher education is keeping up with the flow of information on school safety practices, reviewing recent incidents, and learning and extracting value from those incidents to help better inform and influence current security practices in our campus. Our job is to keep up with the best security practices and to respect students while looking out for them. To ensure their safety, we must consider reality as uncomfortable as it is. “Unlikely to occur” is not the same as ‘never going to happen.’ This applies to any place where large groups of people meet, regardless of how safe we perceive them to be.”
Rodriguez and his team of 13 security officers are a collaborative effort, he says. “Safety is really a shared and collective responsibility, so we partner up to keep open the lines of communication within the departments here and in campus. This helps ensure that we all understand safety practices and the principles that come with those practices, and it also helps address any concerns before they can potentially grow into serious or violent acts,” he says.
This excerpt was reprinted with permission from Security Magazine. You can read the full article here.