When your son or daughter leaves for college, you hope success follows them. But what happens when his car won’t start after a class, a bad asthma attack strikes, or her neighbor decides to act out a scene from Animal House on a Tuesday night?
That’s where Sgt. Josh Thomas, 30, and Officer Steve Gibson, 63, come in. Both Evansville natives, they are two of four second-shift public safety officers the University of Southern Indiana employs, trains, and holds accountable for the wellness and safety of their students from the hours of 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. each day.
On a recent rainy Friday evening, the duo helped a student who had run out of gas by providing her with a free gallon of gas. Thomas also prevented a student from going the wrong way down a busy one-way street using a little humor.
“He’ll figure it out,” says Thomas. “Come on man, you’ve got this.”
Each day, the security staff patrols the campus, including its parking lots and housing, to help students with everything from car trouble to more serious matters. The entire second-shift team is trained emergency medical technicians and each officer’s vehicle is equipped with basic life support equipment.
“The biggest misconception is that people just think we’re security,” says Gibson. “But there’s so much more that we do.”
After 35 years in the radio and broadcasting field, Gibson, left the field because it “wasn’t fun anymore.” He volunteered with Knight Township Fire Department, and then worked at the McCutchanville Fire Department, which serves the USI campus, which turned into a job with the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana fire department in Princeton, Ind., where he worked for eight years. Three years ago, a third-shift opportunity at USI’s public safety office opened. Now, he works alongside Thomas during the second shift and maintains a lieutenant and public information officer position at the McCutchanville Fire Department.
Thomas became a part of the USI team after previously working at St. Mary’s Hospital as a security dispatcher and as a deputy for the County Coroner’s office. He graduated from USI in 2007, with a degree in political science and criminal justice. For the first two years, he was on the third shift team, and has been sergeant of the second shift for the last two. The excitement of interacting with students drew him to the full-time position and hasn’t waned since.
The pair agrees interacting with students is a major attraction of the job and they also hope to instill a sense of friendliness and helpfulness.
“These kids sometimes make decisions they haven’t thought through,” says Gibson. “We as the office of public safety, we’re here to try and keep them safe.”
For more information on the University of Southern Indiana campus police, contact the Office of Public Safety at 812-464-1845.