The guardians of campus

In Features /

By Shane Dingman

If you ever try to hand in an essay after hours, you’ll meet them. If you ever need a walk home on a dark winter evening, they’ll guide you. If ever some precious possession goes missing, you’ll need them.

Ryerson security is ubiquitous around campus, and for that we tend to forget them. We remember the reality of their presence, but not the significance of their charge.

They continually go beyond the call of duty, taking homeless people to shelters, for example. A third of them are taking classes here — not surprisingly, justice studies is a popular choice. They are here to serve and protect us, to make sure all the students, staff and faculty of Ryerson are safe and free from harassment.

The school has always had security guards, not because it didn’t trust its students, but because this is a downtown campus.

The Royal Commissionaires, mainly made up of World War II veterans, ran security from the school’s founding in 1948 until 1972. Their dapper white caps and gloves were replaced with the confident grin and swagger of the Pinkterton’s, detectives and security officers of American Wild West fame. But in just three years Ryerson’s Academic Council began to suspect that Pinkerton’s and physical plant workers were part of an organized theft ring.

In 1975, after one of Pinkerton’s top supervisors at Ryerson was discovered to have quashed reports of the thefts, the school switched to Intercon Security.

Intercon was founded in 1972 by ex-cops and army servicemen. I thas maintained a more civilian exterior to the public — their blue-crested blazers quickly came to typify what a security guard looked like.

By 1976 Intercon had boosted its presence on campus to 34 officers from 10. The company claimed to have cracked down on theft after working with police to capture a man who stole more than $10,000 in Ryerson equipment and furniture by copying staff keys.

In 1982 Ryerson security officers were granted special constable status, which enabled them to hand out parking tickets in addition to the powers granted to them by the Trespass Act and the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act.

Section 494 of the criminal code allows anyone, including security guards, to make a citizen’s arrest on any indictable offence, criminal offence, or suspected offence, then turn them over to the police, said Lawrence Robinson, acting security manager. What separates this from being a cop is that you aren’t allowed to interrogate a suspect or collect and evaluate evidence from the scene. Ryerson security rarely makes that kind of arrest though because it’s not always warranted, and as Robinson says, “An arrest takes more time than you realize — two hours and two officers, at least, are tied up.”

The Security Guards Act offers guidelines for officers, including the fact that they must produce identification of employment is anyone asks them.

The Trespass Act covers any behaviour the university deems unacceptable. Guards can hand out notices on the first infraction, but the big stick of the act is giving officers the ability to ban any individual from Ryerson property. Being a student does not make you immune from that punishment, though few students have been banned.

Robinson was hired in 1993, after Ryerson security faced a large shakeup. Before 1990 most of the heads of security had been promoted from inside the ranks, not very comforting seeing as Intercon’s qualifications for hiring were a minimum age of 18 and grade 11 education.

This was before Jean Golden, a sociology professor on Academic Council, kicked things into high gear.

After three high-profile attacks against women in 1988, Ryerson security found its budget more than doubled to almost $2-million in 1991 from $625,000, which made it the largest campus security budget in the province after the University of Toronto. At its high point, 45 officers were on duty around campus. Their traning was expanded and new intelligence tests were added at Intercon.

In 1991 Golden created the walk and watch program, modeled after successful ones at other universities. The look of the force changed as well — bye-bye blue blazers, hello black cargo pants and military blouses. If you were lucky, you might get the yellow jacket and padded shorts of the bike patrol.

After this restructuring of security, Golden took a year off in 1993 and was replaced by another social work professor, Janet Mays.

Mays is still Ryerson’s head of Equity, Harassment and Safety. Her resume includes a bachelor of science from Norfolk State University in Virginia and a master’s in Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University. At Ryerson since 1982, Mays brings the school the diplomacy of having been a negotiator for the Canadian Union of Educational Workers.

If she had her way Mays would love to teach again. Compared to dealing with a student who is stalking Ryerson president Claude Lajeunesse, bargaining with a student trying to hand in a late essay is an unbridled joy for her. Those troubled students weigh on her, and may be the reason she takes her job so seriously.

Part of that caring spirit was behind this summer’s switch to a new security company. Ensign Security Services now patrols our halls, but you might not have noticed the change. Most of the old guards chose to jump Intercon’s ship and stay with Ryerson.

“The real reason for the change was manpower,” Mays says. Intercon was struggling to supply prisons and jails with guards, so its manpower was drained. “They couldn’t supply the 100-150 man hours (in a week) we needed from them.”

Ryerson’s $1.12-million contract with Ensign, which supplies 35 officers, saves the school less than $5,000, but the hours are guaranteed. Security also spends $424,000 in system maintenance and almost $82,000 in other costs.

Guards patrol the campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All security staff except Mays now have officers in the recently purchased building at 111 Bond St. But within a few months security’s main hangout will no longer be the desk next to the south entrance of Jorgenson Hall, which is called Delta-1.

You’ll find officers permanently stationed at Delta-1, the residences and in the library when it’s open, while a four-person patrol working with one supervisor scours the campus.

If last week’s occurrence report was typical, security officers will find themselves taking umpteen theft statements, assisting students who have fallen ill, rousting the occasional loiters and possibly arresting them for trespassing.

As they stroll through the high school-like hallways of Kerr Hall they might spot people acting suspiciously in a bathroom, or maybe spot check student cards in the computer lab to catch freeloaders. If they’re cruising down Gould Street they might see someone drinking rubbing alcohol, or maybe stop an argument in a parking garage.

Mays says she’s proud of the relationship security has with students. It may not be the perfect public relations picture, but security is much like the older sibling you resent for busting your chops, but who is actually looking out for you.

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