ISU Police: If it doesn't seem right, report

This is the first of a two-part series on staying safe at Iowa State. Tips come from ISU police officers -- interim chief of police Aaron DeLashmutt, deputy chief Carrie Jacobs, Lt. Elliott Florer and officer Anthony Greiter.

Would any of these campus situations prompt you to call university police?

  • An individual wearing a bulky coat on a warm day
  • A couple having a heated argument
  • An angry visitor confronting a co-worker
  • A student on a bench, sobbing

ISU police officers predict that, in the cases of the arguing couple, angry visitor and sobbing student, most of us wouldn't make that call because a) it's none of our business, and b) we don't want to bother police.

The officers' response is simple: Make the call.

Next week in Inside

Having "the talk" at staff meetings, safety tips for classroom instructors, training resources

Recognize, report

Tens of thousands of people keeping an eye out for potential trouble can be a tremendous boon to campus safety, if they are willing to follow through.

Campus police encourage faculty, staff and students to set aside their reluctance to call police (911 for emergencies, 294-4428 for non-emergencies). The earlier police hear about concerns, the better chance they have of keeping them from turning into real problems.

While an arguing couple may not seem like much of a problem, a timely report to police might bring a simmering domestic situation into the open. Similarly, closer looks by police may reveal that the sobbing student is suffering from undiagnosed mental illness or that the angry individual has a history of such flare-ups.

Early identification of a problem and response is crucial in getting help to individuals in trouble and, in some cases, preventing their problems from endangering the community at large, officers say.

Police, as much problem-solvers as law enforcers, often are the ones who make sure that people get to counseling, to the dean of students, to financial aid or to any of a number of other resources.

False alarms ... no worries

Reports that turn into false alarms don't bother police. A couple years ago, a caller reported a suspicious bomb-like item near the Hub that was later identified as Styrofoam-filled sock.

Many years before that, another caller reported a "drunk moaning in the bushes" who turned out to be student who'd fallen from the Memorial Union parking ramp and likely would have died without immediate assistance.

In both instances, good citizens, unsure just what was going on, called police.

Trust your instincts

What needs reporting? Police officers advise faculty, staff and students to be alert to disturbing or abnormal behavior. People who are highly agitated or angry often display this kind of behavior. They may raise their voices, make verbal threats, use bad language or knock things off desks. They also may do things that seem out of the ordinary or suspicious, like wearing heavy coats in warm weather.

People should listen to their instincts, officers say. If something doesn't seem right, report it.

Tailored training

ISU's police division provides a one- to two-hour training, "Recognizing and Reporting Disturbing Behavior," for campus units. The presentations, tailored to the hosting unit, spur a lot of discussion about how the unit can handle typical incidents. To schedule the training for a group, contact deputy chief Carrie Jacobs at 294-9848.