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South Dakota Mines diversifies its public safety team
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South Dakota Mines diversifies its public safety team

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South Dakota Mines Police Chief Doug Parrow has made it a priority to recruit and hire public safety officers who reflect the university’s diverse population.

At Mines, white students make up 80% of the campus and men outnumber women three to one. The university has students from 46 states, 39 countries and various tribal nations.

Parrow’s team of 20 officers includes six women, nine international students, seven people of color and six white men. He said the most effective public safety team is one that reflects the campus.

“It fosters a great trust with our students,” Parrow said. A more diverse team allows students to “better relate to our department. This allows us to serve the campus with more fairness and understanding, and we hope it fosters a more inclusive environment while helping (students) feel a little more at home.”

One of the international students on the team is electrical engineering major Abdollah Tavangar from Kuwait. He said working with other officers has taught him teamwork and leadership skills he can use in his future career.

“We all work together as a group and as a family here,” Tavangar said.

Parrow has been a certified law enforcement officer since 1992 and previously worked as a deputy sheriff in Butte County and a part-time police officer in Lead. He has a two-year degree in law enforcement from Hibbing Technical College in Minnesota. His appointment to Mines police chief was approved by the Rapid City Council in January.

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The joint law enforcement agreement by the city and university allows Mines to employ campus police officers. Parrow is the only officer to carry a firearm on campus.

Safety officers like Tavangar operate without firearms. Their job is to help protect and secure campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week by patrolling the campus, securing buildings and monitoring traffic. Tavangar said he and his coworkers are often the first to respond to calls on campus.

“They take calls similar to a small town police department,” Parrow said of the student team.

Students and staff on campus can reach the public safety officers by calling 605-394-6100 for instances like theft reports, private property or accident reports. If there is an emergency, they should instead call 911.

The campus officers can call in Rapid City Police Department officers when needed. Parrow is the only fully-sworn officer at Mines and generally works from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. In the evenings, nights or on the weekend, the campus officers fill in the gap and RCPD handles other emergency situations on campus.

“International students supplement on holidays when full-time officers need to be off work,” Parrow said, noting some of the international students on the team have come from India, Kuwait, Norway, Sri Lanka, Iran, Ghana and several other countries in Africa.

Some past student officers from Mines have gone on to work as RCPD or highway patrol officers, Parrow said.

The move to increase public safety on campus follows other universities in the state, including the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University. Parrow said his team of 20 for a campus of more than 2,000 is on par with other state universities.

Mines said in a press release that more uniformed law enforcement officers like Parrow may be added in the future.

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