While COVID-19 has affected nearly every department at Suffolk University, the Suffolk University Police Department (SUPD) in particular was faced with many new tasks and challenges brought by the pandemic.
Under the CDC and WHO guidelines, schools have had to completely alter how they operate. Students have had to change how and where they learn, and many teachers have moved to remote instruction. However, Suffolk’s essential staff, like the police officers and security guards, remain on the front line throughout all the changes to the system and new protocols.
Guidelines put in place include masks and social distancing, which are required by all students and faculty when on campus. Additionally, weekly COVID-19 PCR tests are conducted and symptoms are monitored daily if a student or faculty member intends to go on campus at any point on a weekly basis. All members of the Suffolk community are required to use the CoVerified app, which keeps a record of their symptoms and latest test results.
Despite all of these new protocols, much of the Suffolk community may not be aware of the measures taken by the essential staff, such as police officers and security guards, to ensure their safety on and around campus.
Kenneth Walsh, who took up the position of SUPD chief in 2019, said his officers had to take quick action when the pandemic hit.
Walsh explained that there were many special measures taken by the SUPD to keep the students and faculty safe from the virus, even before the administration decided to close campus.
“As soon as the university shut down last March, we had to come up with our own protocols for our department to follow,” Walsh said. “The SUPD was one of the few departments on campus that actually increased their presence when students came back, because of the added protocols we had such as ‘CoVerified’ checkpoints.”
According to the Suffolk University website, the SUPD officers are responsible for “detecting, deterring, and apprehending criminal offenders through prevention, cooperation, and enforcement.” The security guards are “primarily used inside the buildings to maintain a fixed post, perform interior safety checks of buildings, enforce the university’s rules and regulations, and deter criminal activity.”
However, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the responsibilities of the SUPD officers and security guards have significantly increased. They are now responsible for checking that students and faculty members have been “cleared” by the CoVerified app before entering campus buildings, and must respond to situations where students and faculty have broken COVID-19 guidelines, such as holding big events, gatherings, meetings or parties.
According to Walsh, a special COVID-19 task force was formed by the university and SUPD, and frequent meetings were held over Zoom to discuss how to deal with safety during the pandemic.
“It was a lot to deal with, but all of my officers have really done an outstanding job,” Walsh said.
Suffolk University President Marisa Kelly announced on March 16 that the administration plans to “resume a full complement of on-campus classes, student services, activities, and residential life at full capacity in the fall.”
When asked about the fall semester Walsh responded by saying his officers were, “more than ready” to have students back on-campus next semester.”