With the return of Public Safety (PS) officer, Christopher Mickens, comes questions regarding how this will affect OWU’s Public Safety Department.
Mickens, a local resident of the Delaware area, has worked with OWU PS since 1999. Since then, he has established his presence on this campus through his work with PS but also through the connections he has made with students.
Due to personal reasons, Mickens took leave from the department in 2019, but was asked back in 2021 as, what many speculate, a response to the heightened tensions between PS and students in the last academic year of 2020-2021.
As many students know, 2020 was a challenging year; academically, mentally, racially, and physically. The lasting effects of the presidential election along with heightened racial hate crimes, has left many BIPOC questioning their safety on campus and off.
When discussing the heightened tension on campus, Mickens emphasized that because he was absent during these times, it would have been beneficial to be here. However, he recognizes that he wasn’t, and that what he is focused on is “rebuilding bridges, building new bridges, and taking them seriously. I would like to think that in practice I am an ally to whoever is in front of me, however they identify.”
Recognizing that many students do not trust PS, the campus is navigating how to move forward. Trust is not built overnight, nor will the past negative experiences students have had with PS disappear, which puts OWU in a position of wondering where to go from here. Many students want to see change before putting their trust back in PS. Something many are frustrated with is conversations about changes but the lack of action to make these changes happen.
Mickens recognizes this and believes that rebuilding trust comes from, “boots on the ground, I put myself out there, appropriate but also vulnerable,” identifying that “trust comes from repeated, good, calm, and thoughtful interaction, just to establish good interactions, so that the only interactions with PS aren’t negative, but also so that there's kindness to it. A lot of value knowing faces. To some that may not seem like enough but it is a start.”
A sophomore at OWU, Halima Elmajdoubi points out that Christopher is one of the few diverse PS officers at OWU, and that his presence is important. However, she also states that, “I would also like to see more diversity within the PS staff so that students of all backgrounds can feel comfortable and protected when PS officers are around.” This is a sentiment many BIPOC students share on this campus.
Even with Mickens’ return, there are still many students that question and mistrust Public Safety, which is understandable considering the campus’s history of biased interactions with Public Safety officers, the protest staged against the department, and the larger climate surrounding policing and police brutality in America.
The student body, after the trauma of the last two years, needs the reassurance of being able to see and feel change on this campus.