BC Students have coffee with local law enforcement

Michael Gennaro

North Bureau Chief


Local members of law enforcement stopped by the North Campus Coffeehouse on Sept. 6 for coffee and donuts with students.

September is Campus Safety Month at Broward College, and “Coffee With A Cop” gave students a chance to ask questions and get to know their local law enforcement officers face-to-face over breakfast.

The floor was open for students to voice their comments and concerns to local officers and campus safety leaders in an honest, open forum.

Lt. John Labandera, who worked for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department for 28 years before taking over as the head of Campus Safety at North Campus almost two years ago, shared stories of his time on the force and graciously answered questions that ranged from serious to light-hearted.

Lt. Labandera takes pride in the clean safety record at North Campus. “We’re blessed, and I’m going to knock on wood. [Coconut Creek] has a great police force.”

When asked about the specific measures campus police have put in to keep students safe in the wake of mass shootings that have occurred over the last year in public schools and public places, Lt. Labandera talked about new remote access technology that is being rolled out on every Broward College campus.

“Every professor on this campus carries a red key, and if a situation occurs….they can push that red key, lock the doors, and no one gets in from the outside. If a situation occurs where we have to lockdown, with the push of one button, we can lock every single classroom down that has remote access. That’s lightning-fast,” he said.

It doesn’t stop there, however.

“Every building has something called an OEAP. (Operational Emergency Action Plan). We put a plan together, escape routes, safe havens, where you’re going to lock in, what you would do if this happens,” he said. “As part of OEAP, every classroom must have an emergency guide on the wall. Take a look.”

“We have blue phones all over campus. Anywhere you’re at, you hit a button and it immediately contacts dispatch in six seconds and you’re talking to a live person who handles 911 emergencies.”

In addition to the safety measures he discussed, Lt. Labandera wants students to know that campus police are always available if a student feels unsafe. Campus safety is available 24 hours a day on every campus, and they will walk with students to class or to their car if they are uncomfortable. Lt. Labandera believes that open communication is vital to build trust in the community.

“I’ve seen officers fail when they don’t listen to the other person. Let them talk. At least then they will say ‘At least the officer was decent, and he let me share what was on my mind.’ That goes a long way in building a bridge in the community.”

Even though the police and Broward College have enacted new safety measures and action plans, Lt. Labandera thinks it is vital for students to pay attention to their surroundings and be prepared.

“The one thing we’re trying to improve since the Parkland incident is everyone’s situational awareness. That’s huge,” he said. “You have to mentally tell yourself…. ‘I don’t expect trouble, but trouble can find me.’”

“When you’re confronted with a crisis—no matter what it is—your training rises to the service.”

Knowing where the closest exits are and where the safe spaces are on campus can be the difference between life and death.

Campus Safety Day on North Campus is Sept. 26, and Lt. Labandera and his coworkers hope every student attends. The event will have officers from departments around the area, vendors, and a K9 demonstration.

In the meantime, students can find Lt. John Labandera at Building 46 in room 103 on North Campus. Questions and concerns about campus safety can be emailed to him at jlabande@browardedu.

photo: Students on North Campus talk to Lt. John Labandera (left), and Coconut Creek police office Carl Labasi Photo Courtesy: Broward College Student Life North Campus



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