Officer Ross has had her new office in Potomac Heights for about a month, recieving mixed reviews with residents. File photo.

More than a month after the George Mason University Police Department placed an officer at the Potomac Heights dorm some students say that they are not happy with the extra police presence.

Police officials had said that one of the goals of having a housing liaison officer at the dorm was to improve communication with students, but Potomac Heights residents say that they were not consulted, or even told about a police officer working out of an office in their dorm.

“I think that there is a legitimate problem with the relationship between the GMU police officers and students,” said Kaki Blackburn, a senior government and international politics major who lives in the dorm. “I don’t think this is the way to address it.”

“I felt safe before,” said Audrey Olszewski, a junior spanish and sociology major who lives in Potomac Heights. Olszewski said she had seen Officer Emily Ross, the housing liaison officer, in the dorm after a fire alarm went off in her room, but that she feels there is no reason for her to be there.

“I honestly don’t know what she is doing,” Olszewski said. “I feel it’s pretty unnecessary.”

Blackburn said that from the outset residents had no input in having a police officer in their dorm.

“No one asked me,” Blackburn said. Olszewski also said she was not asked.

Not only were students not asked how they felt about having an officer in their dorm, they were not even told there would be one working there, Blackburn said.

She said that she did not see any flyers or e-mails or any communication letting students know about the extra police presence.

“I do think it is, a little bit, an invasion of my personal space,” said Blackburn. “I’m renting this space on university grounds, but I’m paying for this, and I think I should be consulted about what kind of safety measures (are being taken).”

Blackburn, who is a Mason Ambassador and the vice president of the Mason chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said that there was no explanation from housing, police or the university as to why an officer was put in the dorm.

“My question is what is the purpose of the police officer? Is she there to help us or target us?”

Blackburn thinks she has an answer to that question.

“The reason she is there is to target students for drug and alcohol issues,” she said.

Blackburn said she only learned about the presence of the officer through an article written in Broadside. She said some of the reasons police gave in the article for the police presence in the dorm was to tackle communication issues, sexual assault issues and alcohol and drug awareness.

“I definitely think there is a need for further outreach with students (regarding those issues),” said Blackburn. “I think that the police officer is not the way to solve that problem.”

“When students see someone walking around in uniform with a gun and handcuffs, that is not someone that seems approachable,” Blackburn said.

However not everyone feels so strongly about the police presence. Some students like Sasha Romanchak, a senior graphic information design major, said she did not even know there was an officer working in the dorm.

Another student said she really didn’t care either way.

“It’s nice to have safety, but I’m kind of indifferent about it,” said Katie DeMonsabert, a junior theater and business management major.

Another student welcomed the presence of police.

Rahneeka Saunders, a sophomore sports management major, said she had not heard about a police officer with an office in the dorm, but she thinks it’s a good idea.

“I feel pretty safe knowing there are police officers in the building,” Saunders said. “The safer, the better.”

As for Ross she said her first month working from the dorm has been busy. She said that she has being dealing with a lot of cases of stolen items, looking through video surveillance, providing alcohol awareness presentations and addressing drug issues.

“It seems like there is a misunderstanding that I am living in the dorm,” Ross said. She said that she just has an office there.
She said the purpose to having an office in the dorm was to make the police more accessible to students.

“I think that going to the students, rather than waiting for them to come to us, is where (there is) the greatest benefit,” Ross said.

“The point of this position is to open up communication with the students,” Ross said. “And we had their best interest and welfare in mind when this position was established. I hope they see it that way.”

Blackburn, however, thinks there are better ways to talk and connect with students.

“They do not have a good relationship with students and I have not seen much outreach from the police officers themselves to try and fix that problem,” Blackburn said. “And I think that they are joking themselves and us by saying that stationing a police officer in our dorms, the same police officer that has arrested (students from the dorm) in the past, that that could form a relationship.”

Blackburn said she does believe that a good relationship between police officers and students is possible.

“Yeah, absolutely,” she said. “Essentially, the police officers are there to protect us.”

But, she thinks having a police officer at the Johnson Center, where students visit every day, would be a better way of reaching out to students.

“That would be something in my mind that would be a lot more reasonable,” Blackburn said.