The past six years of growth and expansion at College of Coastal Georgia have brought a new outlook and a fresh approach for the campus police department, and Chief Bryan Sipe has been there to see it all.
Prior to 2008, when the school transitioned from a two-year community college to a four-year institution offering baccalaureate degrees, Sipe had already been with the department for years and was eager to see the department grow with the college.
“That was an interesting time,” said Sipe, who became chief in 2008.
At the time, under the leadership of college president Valerie Hepburn, the first order of business was to modernize. That meant new uniforms, new patches, new badges and new cars and utility vehicles to patrol the campus.
“She recognized ‘we have to get you guys out of the 1980s,’” Sipe said of the transition to a four-year college.
Since then, on-campus housing and several new buildings and programs have been added that have led to more students on campus during more hours of the day.
The campus is active 24-hours a day, seven days a week, something that presented new challenges and a new mindset.
That is why Sipe said current college president Greg Aloia has put emphasis on preparedness by focusing on emergency plans and expanding communications between police, administration and students.
With around 330 students living at the Lakeside Village residence hall on campus and around 80 more living in an off-campus dorm, working as a college police officer is much different than it used to be, Sipe said.
“We’re enforcing the laws, but we’re also like big brothers and big sisters,” Sipe said. “There is more investment in their lives. You have to establish a rapport with the students.”
Traditional students are 18 to 24 years of age.
While officers deal with some of the normal underage drinking and general mischief issues associated with college students, Sipe estimates there are only roughly about 150 to 200 reports annually that would be classified as violations of law. Most other calls are a matter of campus policy and rules as opposed to criminal activity, Sipe said.
“The biggest thing is that very few of those are violent crimes,” Sipe said. “But we are certainly prepared for that.”
Officers on campus are more focused on the safety of the campus, constantly ensuring they are doing due diligence to notice anything that may be out of place. That includes people who do not belong on campus.
Sipe said one of the more common problems officers must address is someone causing problems who is not a student but has been brought to campus by one. Officers actually have a list of non-students who have been banned from campus because they cannot follow the rules.
Having good relationships with students helps in that regard, Sipe said, which also helps put the minds of parents at ease. At a recent open house, he said he received numerous questions from parents about the campus, the town and the safety of their sons and daughters.
“To parents, safety is their No. 1 concern,” Sipe said.
He and the 10 full-time officers on campus in Brunswick understand that and said that is why leveraging the technology of mass notification systems, emergency beacons around campus and other methods of communication is paramount.
With more dorms to be built on campus in the future, the potential for a Greek-life system emerging and the almost certain growth the college will likely experience, Sipe said it is important to keep his officers well trained
The Brunswick News