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FANTASTIC VOYAGE: A night out with Campus Security is an adventure like no other. Officer Keith Uthe and his wily cohorts show us the other side of a Den night.
Ruth Davenport/The Gauntlet

Fear and Loathing on a Thursday night

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Gauntlet reporter Allie Smyth goes on a ridealong with Campus Security and learns a little about the men and women keeping the peace at the University of Calgary.

     For most university students, Thursday nights are cherished as a special time to hang with friends, humiliate themselves in public, and relieve a little stress.  Darkness sets in and by 11 p.m., over 400 students are enjoying Den night activities. I have just begun a ridealong with Campus Security to see how the other side lives on a Thursday night.

Who are those boys and girls in blue?  We've all seen the uniform, the bikes and the trucks.  True campus delinquents have seen the holding cell.  But the Security Officers are more than glorified security guards.  Known as Campus 5-0, Campus Cowboys or the Fuzz, these officers are dedicated to the security of persons and property while at the University of Calgary.

"Security is intended to be proactive and preventative rather than reactive," explains Campus Security Officer Keith Uthe while on mobile patrol around the
campus.

Patrolling is a big part of what Security does, on foot, bikes and in the trucks.  As this aspect of the routine can be mundane, I am entertained touring the "lesser known" places on campus during the slower times of the evening.

My travels take me several places. I find myself under the university swimming pool where viewing windows are used to peer into the depths; I discover the best view on campus from the roof of the Social Sciences building; I creep around the haunted floor of the MacKimmie Library tower where the elevators operate all night long, and of course I tour the new Information and Computer Technology building.

The inner sanctums of the ICT building reveal a soundproof room with blue foam pyramids where the walls should be.

"It's an anechoic chamber" says Campus Security Officer Kelly Ayerst. "It completely absorbs all soundwaves and radar signals."

Campus Security Officers are required to be physically fit and have a minimum of two years post-secondary education.  Classroom training includes first aid, crime prevention, community relations, domestic disputes and self defence. Some of the officers are interested in careers within police services and find their experience with Campus Security to be helpful.

The camaraderie shared within the team is apparent and, like many U of C students on a Thursday night, they enjoy playing tricks on each other. It's the gentle teasing found in good working relationships. I am regaled with stories of ordering geriatric magazines for the more "senior" officers, and secretly having the PA system on while an officer sings away to the radio, stories showing the human side of the U of C's thin blue line.

Each officer on duty mans the dispatch room for two hours per shift. This task includes monitoring the 34 CCTV cameras and answering the phones and radios. In the dispatch room things pick up. I watch two officers in a footchase across south campus while the two officers in the Mobile Unit discourage an impaired driver from leaving in his vehicle. Surprisingly enough, the excitment coincides with students leaving the Den and occurs at exactly the same time.

All in all, the officers of Campus Security enjoy fulfilling their role in keeping campus a safe place to be and undertake it with the utmost regard.

"Illegal action is halted in its tracks when I am on duty," says Campus Security Officer Darcy Mantai.

He adds quickly, "Make sure you use the words courageous, dedicated and ruggedly handsome."

Campus security can be reached for assistance night or day by calling 220-5333.

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