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Students work with campus police

BY REGINA ZILBERMINTS | OCTOBER 06, 2009 7:20 AM

Rob Johnson/The Daily Iowan
UI junior Jade Hankes works as a dispatcher for the UI police. To become a state-certified dispatcher, a person must complete six months of training.
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Jade Hankes swiveled in her chair, 10 flat-panel computer monitors mounted in front of her.

Each screen carried a different image. Students walked between classes on a feed from a UIbuilding.

A map of Iowa City kept track of patrol cars. Service requests updated on a screen with every incoming call.

The junior, manning the controls, is UI police’s newest student dispatcher, and her job comes with all the same responsibilities and certifications as her full-time colleagues.

The department employs 15 paid students. Hankes, who started her job on Aug. 3, is the only student dispatcher.

The English major said she saw the job opening when she transferred from the University of Northern Iowa this semester.

“I applied, and interviewed, and got the job,” she said with a shrug.

Members of Hankes’ family have been involved with law enforcement, but she has never worked as a dispatcher before.

Her rigorous training includes a 40-hour state certification course. She must manage the dispatch center in the basement of the University Capitol Centre, including alerting police officers to 911 calls, fire alarms, and building alarms.



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And she must learn the preferences of individual officers — like who prefers 10-code and who likes plain English — so they don’t yell at her.

She said the job gives her a unique view of the campus.

“You’re more aware of the danger and consequences. Of things that are illegal, things you didn’t even know were illegal, you find out,” Hankes said.

The other 14 students work as building guards, help full-time officers at athletics events, work in the records area, and do most of the fingerprinting for the department. One student accompanies the full-time officer assigned to escort UI President Sally Mason to football games, said Charles Green, the assistant vice president for UI police.

“It’s mutually beneficial,” he said. “It allows students to earn money in school and saves money for the department. And it’s important to interact with students and find out how they perceive us.”

Both of Iowa’s other regent universities employ student dispatchers.

“It takes a pretty special person to do it,” said Dave Zarifis, the director of University of Northern Iowa public safety. “It’s a high-pressure job.”

Most of the Big Ten universities also employ students in some capacity, but not all of them employ student dispatchers. Michigan State University has more than 200 students working at its public-safety department, which includes parking.

The majority of these schools keep students away from the potentially dangerous situations that often confront full-time officers.

But Indiana University has a program that allows students to receive the same certifications as a full-time officer and eventually work in the same capacity.

After working for one year as guards and dispatchers, Indiana students spend the summer attending the state police academy and become fully certified. They return to school with all the same rights and responsibilities as the full-time officers — even the right to carry a gun — though they don’t work out of a patrol car.

And at a time when many police departments are struggling to remain fully staffed, students helped Indiana University police maintain a large uniformed presence on campus.

Indiana University police Capt. Jerry Minger said he couldn’t recall any issues stemming from having officers the same age as the students they must arrest.

And the UI’s Hankes said though she’s never recognized a name, the age similarity is sometimes striking.

“It’s strange to get a call and look at the date of birth and go, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re the same age as me. How could they have gotten that?’ ” she said.


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