Safety in numbers, CAT provides campus security

Haley Curl, Staff Reporter

Every night, starting at 7 p.m., students and faculty can call (509)963-2950, and arrange for one of the Courtesy Assistance Team (CAT) members to meet and escort them to wherever they need to go on campus.

CAT is a free student service based out of the campus police department. The CAT patrols the grounds in teams of two from 7 p.m. until midnight while school is in session. They check buildings and look for unlocked doors, but also help keep students safe.

“Their primary function is walking companionship,” Central Police Captain Jason Berthon-Koch said.

SAFETY FIRST - CAT members Maure and Weenik accompany a student at night.
Riley Elliott
SAFETY FIRST – CAT members Maure and Weenik accompany a student at night.

In order to create a solid team of qualified individuals, potential CAT members go through an eight hour training session.During the lesson, they are taught standard police protocol and how to appropriately respond to each situation.

The CAT team is also subject to background checks before they start, and the application process is almost as rigorous as the process of hiring a police officer.

Berthon-Koch said that law and justice majors would benefit from CAT experiences.

“The CAT team does go on ride-alongs with the officers,” Berthon-Koch said.

Team members are given the opportunity to work with the officers, get used to the equipment,  and become more familiar with what lies on the other side of a law and justice degree.

“CAT is more about the police exploring program,”  Jacob Maure, law and justice sophomore, said.

CAT is used quite a bit by students and staff on campus.

“It’s actually been a lot busier this year,” Hannah Weenink, a sophomore law and justice major, said.

Weenink said despite the programs anonymity, the typical call is less about intoxication and more about safety in numbers.

“It is anonymous in the sense that we don’t ask anyone for their name or their ID.” Berthon-Koch said. “They are not a part of law enforcement. They can’t turn you in or anything…Although, if they feel uncomfortable doing something, they can also call the police on duty and they will come and assist.”

Maure and Weenink have spent the last two years as CAT members, learning the paths and patrolling the grounds of the main campus.

“The main idea is just to walk with a partner,” Maure said.

Gayle Score, library technician in the music department, admitted that she was reluctant to contact the CAT team.

“I really felt like I shouldn’t call them at first,” Score said. “To me, it was more of a student thing. But it was night time, and it was icey. They were very patient with everything about me.”

Score said that it didn’t take long for the initial apprehension to pass.

“Eventually we would have little conversations…I really got to look forward to my time with them. They were very kind to just let me grab their arm…letting me feel confident in my safety.”

Student and faculty safety is CAT’s main concern. Berthon-Koch recommended taking the women’s self-defense course to help create a safer environment.

The student led physical education credit will be offered in November. Berthon-Koch also said if you cannot walk with a friend, or with CAT, there are ways to be more aware.

“Don’t wear headphones. Walk in well-lit areas… make eye contact with people as you walk by, make sure you know what your surroundings are,” Berthon-Koch said.