In The Spotlight

Clark After Dark: A Night With Campus Security

Ayers finds hitchhikers Peter Grotticelli, left, and a man who only identified himself as “Claus”, both from Eugene, tucked away behind some bushes at Clark College on Oct. 6. The hitchhikers, looking to spend the night, are making their way north for a job they found online in Port Angeles picking dahlias. They hope to one day save up enough money to buy a school bus and start a non-militaristic society.
(Andy Bao/The Independent)

“Hi there, how are you doing?” Clark Campus Security Officer Eben Ayers said as he strode towards two gentlemen who were leaning against travelling backpacks, the fabrics worn and the men’s faces weary. They were resting in between the soccer field fencing and the bushes by the purple parking lot around 9 p.m on a Friday after campus closed at 6 p.m.

The men explained that they were from Eugene and were trekking through Washington to reach Port Angeles, where they heard of a job harvesting dahlias. They planned to earn enough to buy a school bus and amass a group of people to travel, while planting and growing food.

“Well I’m a gardener myself,” Ayers said with a grin, striking up a conversation.

“I told myself a long time ago that I’m not an adult until I can feed myself,” said the man sitting closest to Ayers, Peter Grotticelli.

After minutes of chatting and roaring laughter, Ayers told them that though the campus was closed, they were free to rest in an open place where he could ensure their safety.

“You have to balance safety with people’s attitudes really … if they are cooperative and polite and peaceful then there’s no reason they can’t just sit on a bench and hang out for a bit,” Ayers said.

This is the life of a Campus Security Officer after dark, when all the students are gone, yet the property still needs monitoring.

Aside from interacting with transients, officers working the night shift patrol the 101-acre campus to check buildings for locked doors and provide escorts for students walking to their cars after a late-night class. It’s also their responsibility to rid Clark of incidents like people doing drugs or sleeping in their cars. Ayers said they handle these situations “as delicately as possible.”

Ayers works from 2 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, “ …  I have to give up some time on my Friday evenings, right, I want to be home with my family, and because I was hired last I get the least desirable shift,” Ayers said. Though he said he enjoys getting a taste of both day and night. “I would take any shift … I love the job, I love the campus,” he said.

Ayers exits the balcony of the STEM building at Clark college on Oct. 6. The balcony serves as a great vantage place to overlook the campus. ÒNo oneÕs looking up when theyÕre doing something wrong.Ó
(Andy Bao/The Independent)

While he runs a more standard security procedure at night, he said it’s about the students during the day. His daytime duties include retrieving keys out of locked cars, restarting cars, opening doors for professors and acting as a map direction seekers.

“You never know what’s going to happen next, we could get a call for somebody who’s had a car accident, or you could have a medical call, we respond to those,” Ayers said. “We’re trained in first-aid, CPR, [and] AED.”

Mike See, Clark’s Director of Security and Safety, said “We always have at least one person here 24/7, seven days a week.”

He said there are usually two or three officers on main campus. Out of the total 17 on his staff, four work night shifts, including Ayers.

Ayers has been a security officer at Clark for seven years, five while working full time.

“When I was a young adult, and even in my highschool years, I wanted to be a police officer,” Ayers said.

Empty walkways are lit by lamp posts after-hours at Clark College on Oct. 9, 2017.
(Andy Bao/The Independent)

During Ayers’ Junior year of highschool he attended the Clark County Skills Center, where he frequented the courthouse, observing cases. During his Senior year, he began interning at Clark. A few years after graduation, Ayers returned to Clark as a part-time parking enforcement officer and part-time electrician before becoming moving to his current status as a security officer.

“I love this job, some things just kept pulling me back here to Clark throughout the years in one capacity or another,” Ayers said.

His boss, See, not only looks for integrity in new officers, but for experience in the military, criminal justice or security training as Ayers has had.

“I look for people that have well-developed customer service skills, that’s a big part of what we do here, we serve the college community,” See said.

One call Ayers said he responded to was about a man behaving with hostility towards the  softball coach and his players. By the time Ayers arrived, the man was sitting in the grass.

“We just had a discussion, and ended up finding out that he was depressed and he was contemplating suicide and I asked his permission if I could call an ambulance for him,” Ayers said. “Those are my favorite kind of calls, where we get to help somebody.”

A lamp post on campus illuminates leaves below at Clark College on Oct. 6. Sufficient lighting remains a problem on certain parts of the campus but the security department hopes to get funding to improve the situation. ÒIt comes down to people feeling safe. If you donÕt feel safe, youÕre not going to be able to learn” says Ayers.
(Andy Bao/The Independent)

The most common issue on campus during the night shifts is visitors after hours. Ayers said it’s hard to tell if the person unlawfully passing through campus is threatening or not.

Is Clark a safe campus? “There’s some people that are up to no good, and some people that’re just here to smell the flowers,” Ayers said.

As required by law, Clark keeps a daily crime log on their website and hard copies may be requested for free at the Campus Security Office in Gaiser Hall. 

On Aug. 3 this past summer, a house across the street from Joan Stout Hall was engulfed in flames. After the occupant and her three dogs were safe, Ayers assessed the homeowner and called her an ambulance.

“We’re in the middle of a community, and if a neighbor in our community needs help, we get to help them,” Ayers said, referencing Clark’s proximity and decreased response time.

lAyers looks out a door in the STEM building as he finishes checking the room at Clark College on Oct. 9. “I love my job. I get to change things one positive contact at a time”.
(Andy Bao/The Independent)

Ayers said his role comes down to keeping Clark a place where students are able to pursue their education worry-free. He also said it’s about showing compassion to everyone, like he did to the two travelling men who were trespassing on campus.

He said he treasures the way being a security officer introduces him to people from all walks of life the most. “Maybe 7 or 8 years ago, maybe I wouldn’t have approached those two gentlemen the same way. It might have been a different situation,” Ayers said. “It’s kind of taught me a lot [about] how to interact with people that just aren’t the same as me.”

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