By Derrick Jean-Baptiste
On the first day of class for the Florida Southern Fall 2017, Academic Semester students were able to meet the newest addition to the Florida Southern College Community. That newest addition is Officer Walter Dennis of the Lakeland Police Department.
Upon seeing his presence at the school a few Florida Southern Students showed some concern on what this could mean for safety at the school. On first hearing the news Senior Spanish Major, Jacqueline Erazo admitted she was slightly intimidated by the idea of a Lakeland Police Officer on Florida Southern College’s Campus.
“When I heard about it, my first reaction was just ‘What in the world is Florida Southern doing now,’” Erazo said. “I’ve been here for four years, and we never had a cop on campus before.”
Erazo’s words were parroted by multiple students, all wondering where this officer came from. It boiled down to three different questions: Why is Officer Dennis at Florida Southern College? Who hired Officer Dennis? Finally, what does the presence of Officer Dennis mean for Florida Southern students?
According to Bill Carew, director of campus safety and security, Officer Dennis was “hired as an extra layer of security for those attending and visiting Florida Southern College.”
Florida Southern still has the same number of safety officers patrolling the campus grounds but now the main campus has the added safety of a Lakeland Police Officer.
When asked who hired Officer Dennis, Carew had a simple answer, “The Lakeland Police Department had seven applicants for the position. They conduct a Lateral Transfer Board, where members of LPD asks each candidate a series of questions regarding the position. All applicants are asked the same questions.
The Board then decides who would be the best fit for the position. Myself and Terry Dennis, VP of Administration & Finance, sat on that Board. We unanimously chose Walter Dennis as our first College Resource Officer.” The most important thing for Florida Southern Students is what this new resource officer will mean for them as they live and go to school on the Florida Southern campus.
Carew had this to say: “It means they know they have a full-time Lakeland Police Officer assigned to campus. One that not only makes the campus safer but also serves as an avenue for students to interact with him. Walter will also conduct various crime prevention programs to educate students on current crime trends. His presence will also act as a deterrence for the “undesirables” coming on to the campus.”
Officer Dennis’s presence on campus has been a positive experience for many students. Tatiana Montilla a Senior Vocal Performance Major says. “Walter makes sure to say my name whenever I see him! He seems to make an effort on remembering every student’s name he interacts with, that’s something that we don’t get a lot on this campus, so it’s pretty nice.”