A sit-down with Senior Lead John Comeau
During The Xaverian Weekly’s production night on March 11 2019, Two X-Patrol members were sitting down near the radio station. Of course, taking breaks is perfectly fine. However, more than three hours later, those same two individuals were sitting in the same spots. It was then when they got a message on the radio to take a break.
“Finally!” one exclaimed enthusiastically.
Why would those two be sitting down for three hours, hanging out on their phones?
I sat down with John Comeau, Senior Lead of X-Patrol, on March 22 to get some answers.
BA: How many current X-Patrol members are there?
JC: 78 and they’re all students
BA: What kind of screening happens for an application?
JC: We first make sure that the student is coming back for more than just their fourth year, so that we can retain high numbers of staff and we don’t have a turnover every year. So we’re looking for second and third year applicants, and sometimes we’ll make an exception if we are really short on staff. But, we make sure that they’re in good academic and conduct standing. We send it off to Residence Life and they tell us if they have any major conduct issues or like a 60 or 65 average I think. That’s kind of like the only screening and then we conduct interviews. They are pretty brief, and based on that we decide. We’re pretty open and we usually don’t turn many people away for this job because there is events that require 30 or so staff.
BA: What do walk-homes consist of, and what limits do officers have to their patrolling?
JC: The walk home system was created as a way of helping students get home safe after events. We always partner up a male and a female on patrol so that no matter who we’re walking home they feel safe, and approachable. Our parameters for where we can walk home is anywhere on campus. If somebody lives off-campus we can walk them right to the edge of campus, but our staff are told not to leave campus property. Oftentimes we’ll just even walk people back from like the KMC to Bloomfield so they can get a drive with Drive U to get home that way. Or even between the library after 8pm when it’s dark sometimes. We’ve had students call security and ask for just a walk home from the library to Governor’s or something like that.
BA: How many people per day patrol?
JC: On any given night we’ll have at least six, but on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday we have eight until 3am. But, on any other night of the week, it’s only until 12:30. But we have two people or one patrol pair stay after 12:30 and work in the Bloomfield until three, so that the building can remain open after hours.
BA: Do you think that there are too many patrols at some point?
JC: On weekends, it can honestly be not enough but I think that it’s finding that right balance because there are nights where it’s quiet and we’re not really needed. However, for example during exam period we still keep six staff on every day of the exam period right up until the end. But, you never know when something’s going to happen or when something’s going to come out of the blue. Outside of just walking people home and doing patrols like that, we also assist the officers in doing checks on apartment style because there’s no community advisors (CA) in those buildings. They do roundabouts throughout the floors to report damages or parties or anything like that. And they also do wall walks around the Oland Centre/Keating complex to make sure that there’s no high schoolers, because there’s a lot of space on campus that can’t be monitored by the three full time officers. So, I think that it’s an appropriate number. But in years past they didn’t have any patrols on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday nights. It was just a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday thing.
BA: When did that change happen?
JC: I think it was about five years ago with new management. They figured that with the new walk home program, that was something that they wanted to offer every night of the week.
BA: What are the responsibilities of the full-time security officers?
JC: They’re in charge of doing more lockouts of bedrooms and opening and closing classrooms and buildings, issuing temporary keys and those type of things. Usually when there’s a thing that X-Patrol deals with that gets escalated, they’ll be in charge of helping out before we get the RCMP involved. There’s only two of them so they’re pretty busy with their own duties, and a lot of things kind of fall on them if a student has problems with their faucet late at night, they could call security and they would go. Or if there’s a leak in a building, there’s a lot of small jobs that they’re tied up with so they often aren’t around on campus.
BA: Do X-Patrol Officers have the jurisdiction to ticket students?
JC: No, so we don’t write tickets. You have to go through a police appointment act to be able to act as an officer and write provincial tickets. We just deal with a lot of incident reporting and putting people through conduct that way. We do writeups but not like in a ticketing form and I know that the school used to give fines for certain things but that’s not really our business.
BA: Do you know how much students pay for the X-Patrol program?
JC: I’m not entirely sure how the financing of student goes. But, how X-Patrol is funded is, we have an account with the university that’s budgeted for these patrols and the same kind of thing that Drive U does is there’s an account that will do the daily kind of patrols. We’re in Meal Hall every single night of the week which is paid through by Sodexo. We’re kind of contracted out through lots of different departments on campus. For example, athletics will get us at their events, the Students’ Union will call us in for assistance managing The Inn line or an event in the Mackay room or even The Alumni Affairs will have us at a wine and cheese night if there’s a bar. So anytime there’s liquor served on campus, it’s more sensible for us to be the security enforcing liquor licenses than it is to have a full-time officer at their rate of pay because we get paid minimum wage for what our security work is. We’re kind of contracted out and I would say, 80% of the hours that are available to our staff, go through events and Residence Life and athletics and all these different departments that require us to be on campus for.
BA: The contracting work, do you guys get paid the same or different than the regular work?
JC: It’s all the same, they request a number of XP’s that they want at the events and we will confirm whether or not we think it's an appropriate number to staff that event. It’s kind of on a need basis based on what the event is and such.
BA: I know we have a safety and security fee at the start of they year and I am not sure how much of that is appointed to X-Patrol?
JC: Yeah, I don't particularly know the numbers. I know that the entire budget for the X-Patrol essential service, which includes campus patrol and all of the nightly work that we do, which is paid through by our department, is very minimal. We typically have six people working from eight until 12 (four hours), that's 24 hours at minimum wage. But for a house hockey cup as an example, we have 35 staff in the Keating Centre, and they're all paid for four hours and then we have like six per residence for an hour shift right, so there's a lot more money coming out from the events that is paid out through the departments. We're on an approved budget through the Board of Governors, as long as it stays within the kind of pre-approved parameters
BA: Do you think that the students payment prior to the addition of the all-day patrol under the old management cost more?
JC: You know, I don’t really know, but I do know that five years ago the full time officers were under a different contract, and some of the duties that they have done have increased and such they’ve worked out different arrangements for compensation, so their salary is significantly higher than what we get paid.They work full time hours so the majority of what the security fee would entitle is probably paid out through the full time staff. I would say that the whole money that cycles through this department is paid out through other people contracting us for events and such.
BA: What is the disciplinary process for the X-Patrol Officers, if they were caught doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing?
JC: What happens is if we get an email sent to us at X-Patrol (email@example.com) by any outside person; me, Katrina or Dylan, one of the Senior Leads will read it. We have a performance management system in place where, if a staff will do something like be caught on their phone sitting down or any sort of reprimandable act. Then we go through a one two three strike system where the first strike is kind of an informal meeting where we talk to them about it. The whole idea of it is to not just dismiss staff but it’s a growth and development opportunity because ultimately what we want is our staff to leave X-Patrol with more leadership skills and good work ethic. The leveling system of X-Patrol; there’s level one level two and the Senior Lead. So, there’s a slight compensation grade with that but mainly the level two’s will lead the shifts and they bring a lot of the things to our attention. The Senior Leads are like the management of X-Patrol. If we see people on their phones or doing things like that then it’s kind of brought through a trickle down to us.
BA: How has X-Patrol responded to the recent off-campus case, of a drug-induced sexual assault? Do you guys have meetings where incidents like this are brought up?
JC: We have weekly meetings. So, a lot of issues like that and a lot of concerns are expressed every Sunday. But with sexual assault and with other touchy issues on campus that have been going around, especially if it’s off-campus then it’s not really our job or what we’re being paid to do so we kind of stick towards what we’ve been asked to do and our patrols and walk homes and such. We’re not ever off-campus so I do know that if there’s a time where a CA will call us into a building to help with a situation, a lot of our staff are trained in Mental Health First Aid. Because it was an issue that has been coming up more often than not dealing with cases where there may be situations that are hard to deal with and may leave longer lasting effects on our staff after they leave, so they need to know how to cope with it themselves and how to help other people cope with it.
BA: Do you guys have Bringing in the Bystander training?
JC: Yes, we have a lot of that same training that the CA’s get in September.
BA: What do you think X-Patrol can do better?
JC: You know, there are lots of concerns and we meet and we discuss things that are working well and things that are needed to change. I think one of the common things that’s pretty well known between us and the Students’ Union is the disconnect between the two security departments and how it’s not the most effective way of applying security on campus, when we have two separate departments, one in The Inn through the Students’ Union wearing the green shirts and us through X-Patrol. We have different protocols and we have different communication and a lot of the things, it would be a lot more effective if we were all fluid as one security department because then we would all have the same incident reporting, communication, radioing and first aid training. That’s kind of the one issue that we face and there’s a lot of gray zone and it’s been fixed a little bit this year as we are actually paid now to be in the second floor of the Bloomfield. In years past, I know that we weren’t paid and, The Inn lineup can often be an issue where a lot of things will happen, or when students leave The Inn they are storming out and they’re damaging things. So, our patrols were having to leave outside and come inside the second floor of the Bloomfield, and we resolved that issue with a discussion between us, Sean Ryan (The U Manager) and Cody McGregor (The Inn Manager) saying there's a need for us to be in the building and it's not fair when we can’t continue to do our job when we're having to clean up the mess of the Student Union. But there is an idea circulating about eventually having X-Patrol running the Inn security over the next couple years, they're going to try and transition into all having it under one security. In years past, safety and security campus police were paid and was a part of the Students Union the same way that Drive U is. So, only in the last couple of years it transferred management over into safety and security and there's kind of a disconnect between the two.
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