You usually hear them before you see them. The static screech of a walkie-talkie usually gives you enough time to make whatever you were doing look unsuspicious before black boots and a shiny badge round the corner. You notice them talk to a student or lean on the half-wall of the cafeteria and avert your attention as they silently watch for unmanaged mischief.
Kingsborough’s campus security is at the pinnacle of KCC safety, but what they do all day (and night) is a mystery to the school.
In the four years that Officer Cyrus Dieudonne has been at Kingsborough, he’s seen fights, scandals and outright ridiculous scenarios. His job is to be seen and unseen- to be as unnoticeable yet essential as the pillars that hold up the cafeteria. Officer Dieudonne, or DD, as he is known colloquially, does not always adhere to these rules. Students know him by his 5’7” frame and musical Haitian accent. He almost never stands still- he paces up and down the school’s campus and usually greets students and staff on his rounds. His hand reflexively grabs his walkie-talkie when he’s making a point.
The day begins before the sun. The morning tour’s roll call is at 6:45 a.m. in the front of the library. At this time of day, the campus is quiet. No students are around, although some may be waiting outside for the gates to open. The officers assemble in the library hall. Daylight has just broken; the halls are quiet and echo with every step. Officer Dieudonne rushes in just after roll call.
“Traffic was crazy,” he said.
The officers were given a paper with the events of the week. This week, it’s a couple of tablings, graduation photos and a few scattered events. Sergeant Rodriguez debriefs the tour before they go to get their radios.
Each officer is assigned a radio and an area of the school. Today, DD gets the front gate. The main front gate is the cusp of all incoming and outgoing traffic. Almost everyone who enters the campus comes through those gates, so there are usually two officers posted at each booth. What those officers can’t see, hidden security cameras can. It’s like this all over the school. You may not see all officers on guard- that’s because a number of them are incognito. Specialist Chung, one of the few certified EMTs on campus, is one of those few.
“I’m always in plain clothes. You may see me put on my suit like D, but most of the time, my walkie-talkie will be hidden and [turned] down low,” Chung said. “You’d be standing right next to me doing whatever, thinking I work in an office or something, but I’m there. I’m an officer just like D. I’m everywhere. It’s like the White House. You don’t see every single secret service agent when you pull up to the White House. They’re discreetly placed around the White House, but there’s security in every corner. Just because you’re not seeing us doesn’t mean we’re not there.”
Unlike the White House, Kingsborough has quite a few gaps in its security systems. The stairwells and elevators, for example, lack security cameras and the roofs are fairly accessible. This is all due to budgeting, Chung says, and the department is planning on implementing dozens more cameras around the campus in the future.
The day starts off slow. Gate activity ebbs and flows. On the desk in the hut is a radio, visitor log, unused computer, and Gate Alert book. The Gate Alert book has images and descriptions of all the people who are not allowed on Kingsborough’s campus as well as the reason they are banned. Offences vary from as mild as soliciting to as dangerous as assault.
The morning tour can be brutal, especially during the cold months. To get to work on time, Officer Dieudonne has to wake up at 5 a.m. every day, even on his off days when his second job starts at 10 a.m. His breakfast consists of a bagel and coffee. He used to not eat anything at all, but as he got older his body demanded he fuel it more often.
He’s a stickler for fitness. You have to be when your job entails running from point to point on campus or sprinting upstairs with heavy medical kits. PT tests aren’t enforced in the department once the officers finish their basic training, though.
Around 11 a.m. outside begins to heat up a little and the officers switch duties. Officer Dieudonne gets foot patrol. He heads from the locker room to the North of the campus, which is the V buildings, T-buildings, and high school. The south is the cafeteria, clusters. The MAC is in-between.
The north is quiet. It usually is. Public Safety also patrols the high school, which is connected to Kingsborough’s gym. The clusters, the height of student activity, can simultaneously be the best part of an officer’s day and the bane of their existence. For article Dieudonne, it’s one of the best parts of his day.
There’s a noise complaint in the clusters. Nothing new. Today, another officer, Desil, is already on the scene. He’s been at this job for a few months. As he tries to address the complaint, a student curses and shouts at him. She is surrounded by her friends who watch her mouth off to the officer with amused looks on their faces.
Officer Desil remains stoic, but his fuse gets shorter. The tension breaks when Dieudonne approaches- the student is friendly with Dieudonne. He’s quickly able to diffuse the situation.
This is a typical course of action for Dieudonne. One student, Tiffney Mitchell, talks about him with a grin.
“Everybody loves him,” she said. “He takes his job seriously, no doubt, but he’s also funny. He’s mad cool.”
Dieudonne walks for about three hours. He spends all day on his feet. He constantly moves, partly because it’s part of his job and partly because it’s cold outside.
As with most jobs of this nature, there is a long period of nothing before a dramatic something. It’s quiet. The sky is overcast and there is a chill in the air. It’s around 3 p.m., the end of an 8-hour shift. Officer Dieudonne is silent, looking at the auburn leaves that fall to the ground outside the library steps.
Today is a slow day.
“A good day,” Dieudonne says. “At our school, a slow day is always a good day.”
Almost in malicious contradiction, there is a screech. Static. A patchy, almost indetectable voice floats from the walkie-talkie.
“Suspicious package in the C stairwell.”
Dieudonne looks at his watch and heads inside. His countenance immediately switched to detective mode. His legs were taking a meter’s stride with every step. He met Officer Stroble at the bottom of the stairwell and they turned in unison as if they’d marched together their whole life. Together they bounded up the stairs, taking them two at a time.
They meet a posse in the stairwell. They surround the ‘package’. After some poking and prodding, it turns out to be brownies.
All is well.
“I feel like I make a difference in people. I feel like my presence here makes people very comfortable,” he said. “I met a lot of people who stop me and say, ‘I like seeing you here, I feel safe’. I feel like coming here, I make a difference in somebody’s life. I want to be an officer that people can come talk to.”