Student security officers help to ensure a safe and secure campus environment
Criminal Justice students at Waukesha County Technical College are not only learning the skills needed to protect and serve their communities, but also the WCTC campus. They are able to gain valuable hands-on experience and give back to the campus community by serving as student security officers (SSO).
The SSO program, which began in the mid-2010s, is led by Pete Latona, campus security coordinator and former longtime officer with the Village of Pewaukee Police Department (PVPD). Students work closely with Latona, along with the PVPD campus liaison officer and others from the PVPD, to ensure a safe and secure environment for students, employees and visitors.
SSO responsibilities include patrolling campus properties and enforcing campus regulations; documenting and reporting safety or security-related incidents; assisting at special on-campus events, such as open houses or dignitary visits; working with a camera surveillance system; performing equipment inspections and other duties as assigned. Students work about 20 hours each week in shifts designed to fit with their class schedules.
Most students have at least a year of CJ studies completed when they join the SSO team, Latona said, and many say the SSO experience, along with what they have learned in their classes, provides them with a solid foundation for work in law enforcement.
Kami Berlin, who was hired just last month as a police officer with the Oconomowoc Police Department, graduated with her associate degree from WCTC in May 2020 and completed the Law Enforcement Academy in May 2021. She worked as a SSO from August 2018 to April of 2021.
“The student security officer job has prepared me in many different ways for a career in law enforcement,” Berlin said, noting the benefits of working alongside Latona and the PVPD officers, and further developing her communication skills.
“The most important thing that the SSO job taught me was how to communicate with people from all walks of life,” she said. “WCTC is a pretty diverse school, and SSOs respond to all kinds of calls throughout campus. In doing so, I met all sorts of people. I was able to establish relationships, take some field notes, write a report when needed, and then do it all again. In a career like law enforcement, you must be able to communicate with people.”
Current Criminal Justice student Mitch Schroeder applied to be a SSO to gain experience in the field of public safety. Like Berlin, he said being mentored by Latona and working with PVPD officers has been valuable in gaining knowledge and insight into the daily aspects of police work.
“The practical application of concepts learned in the classroom as well as the concepts and skills taught to us on the job has made me feel confident in my ability to succeed in this field in the future.”
For more information about the SSO program, contact Latona at PLatona@wctc.edu or 262.691.5225.