New (police)man on campus
The incoming class of Virginia Tech freshman will have a new officer to look to as the face of campus police.
Dallas Leamon, who has been with the department for five years, will take over the student liaison role from Geof Allen _ has been a Virginia Tech community fixture for eight years, serving as the university’s community outreach officer.
According to Allen, the job has three major duties; crime analysis, the strengthening of building security and community outreach with faculty, staff and students.
Allen, who joined the department as a dispatcher in 1999, will go back to patrol full-time July 28.
The change gives both officers a chance to do something different and take on new challenges, they said.
“I’ll miss it. I’ll still get to do some of it, more on an individual basis,” Allen said.
Tech’s police department makes a point to move officers around, giving them experience in a lot of areas, Allen said. When he was first called into his superior’s office eight years ago to receive his new role, Allen said he didn’t know what to think.
“I thought I got demoted. I didn’t know what they were making me do,” he said.
Once he learned what the job actually entailed, Allen said he fell in love with it. What he initially thought would be just a three-year gig gave him the opportunity to continuously grow, he said.
Leamon, a 13-year police officer, said he joined the residence life resource officer program last year, which has given him the chance to learn more about the campus community and prepare for the new position. The new shift and focus is a welcome change for Leamon, he said.
“I’m looking forward to continue to work with the students and develop new programs for them,” Leamon said.
The community outreach officer helps to facilitate the student’s police academy, a women’s rape prevention course and other programs intended to prevent crime and foster relationships with police.
Allen said one of the best parts of the job is the creative freedom the university allows for their outreach programs.
Students who participate in the police academy have the opportunity to drive a police vehicle through a course, complete with lights and sirens, shoot guns at a firing range, study crime scene and investigation and other such activities, Leamon said.
These programs have continued to grow, to the point that students can receive credit for certain programs, and recently over 200 women graduated the rape prevention course and more than 600 students took part in the police academy.
“The programs just keep on getting better and expanding,” Allen said.
Leamon and Allen have been participating in Tech’s new student orientation throughout this month. Their orientation days begin at 8 a.m., as they man a resource table for parents and students who may have questions. From that point on, they lead information sessions and presentations.
Leamon said he participated in orientation last year as well. It’s important to evolve and understand that no two years will be the same, he said.
“It’s an ever-changing community. We have to make sure we keep up to date with a new freshman class coming in every year,” Leamon said.
Keeping with the times has created massive changes since the last time Allen was on patrol full time, he said.
“We’ve gone from radios in the car to satellites and mobile data. We text message by computer from car to car. It’s just unreal,” Allen said.
He got into law enforcement to help people, Allen said, so he’ll carry that mindset when he goes back to patrol. Some officers would rather not field calls at 2 a.m. from an elderly person with a broken down car, but Allen said these routine situations are the ones that help and make impressions on people.
Each year, the university has freshmen that make ill-advised mistakes which put themselves or others in danger, he said. It’s important to create a relationship with the public during peaceful settings, Allen said, so that they feel comfortable coming to police if they need help.
Building relationships and trust is a continual process, he said.
“That ‘stupid freshman’ is here every fall, and every year they get wiser and then 8,000 more come back,” Allen said.
His advice to Leamon would be to keep an open mind, because there are tons of good ideas available to connect with students. The job is crucial to crime prevention and helps promote a healthy campus environment, Allen said.
“We make an impression with them early and not just during negative times.”
The Roanoke Times | 381-1665