By Eric Lam
After a series of hate crimes crippled campus in 2004, Ryerson security decided it needed more than just its regular uniformed patrol officers.
Security now boasts a force of four to six “case officers,” about 10 per cent of the total security corps, who each work as many as 10 cases at a time. They come to work without the standard patrol uniform.
In the summer of 2004, “Die Muslim Die” and a Star of David had been spray-painted onto the walls of the Multifaith Centre. Threatening notes were slipped under the doors of the Muslim and Arab student associations.
“The … investigation … allowed us to see that working with uniformed response patrol officers alone wasn’t enough,” said Lawrence Robinson, Ryerson’s security manager.
On Oct. 18, two plainclothes security officers apprehended Kevin Haas, who was not a Ryerson student, putting up hate literature outside the ASA office. The officers are mostly pulled from Ryerson’s regular security team, and receive special training in interviewing and evidence gathering.
While the idea of plainclothed security at Ryerson may have some seeing visions of trenchcoats and gumshoes, Robinson says that’s a misperception.
“It’s not a secret, it’s on our website,” he said, pointing out he often wears a trenchcoat.
Julia Lewis, assistant director of Campus Health and Safety, said school security has never attempted to hide the team’s existence from students.
“People are as aware as they choose to be,” she said. Lewis added that students have nothing to worry about as long as they don’t plan on committing any crimes.
“[You should know about the team] only if you’re someone up to no good, then if you know we had this set of eyes on you they’d find it interesting,” she said.
Robinson said that while patrol officers respond to cases and move on, plainclothes officers would stick with an investigation to the bitter end. Those investigations can include stakeouts, but only if there’s enough evidence to warrant it. “No, we don’t spend our time out there hoping for a crime,” he said.
Keith Christie, the team’s supervisor, said the team gives security flexibility for deploying officers at odd hours.
“[For example] with the hate crimes investigation that was an arrest made after hours,” he said.
Christie added plainclothed officers are actually at less risk of danger because they are not always outside on patrol.
The case officer’s primary rationale is “case continuity,” Robinson said. “It gives people involved in the case one person to talk to and for continuing the case. “This allows them to better connect the dots. They can see if methods and descriptions are similar,” he said.
One plainclothed officer, who chose to remain anonymous, said they would handle cases that last anywhere from a day to more than a year.
“There are many challenging events that can take you for quite a roller coaster ride,” they said. Haas, who said he was remorseful for his crimes, pled guilty to two counts of willful hate promotion and two counts of mischief in 2006.
He served six months house arrest and one year probation.