Two familiar faces of the Wittenberg Police Division will no longer be found by students around campus, or helping lock down buildings at night. Security Officer Dan Peterson and Police Officer Steve Southern have recently stepped down or retired from the Division.
Peterson has been with Wittenberg for over thirty years, spending his time as a security officer, and becoming well-known around campus for his work on the second shift.
“I guess it’s time for a change,” Peterson said. “I’m going to Honda, so it’ll be better benefits, better pay. It’ll be something different.”
Peterson is excited for his next opportunity post-Wittenberg, especially because of the opportunity of getting to work with his son.
“He’s super excited for me to go up there, too,” Peterson said.
Many Wittenberg students, and faculty, are devastated to see Peterson go.
“Officer Dan is one of the finest, most upbeat people I’ve ever worked with; he’s outgoing, funny, dedicated and always goes out of his way to be friendly and help people,” Karen Balliet, from the Thomas Library, said. “Although I only see him a few times a week for a few minutes when he helps us close the library, I always look forward to the nights when I know he’s working.”
Sierra Sandy, ’19, shared how Peterson has impacted her decision to remain at Wittenberg.
“Officer Dan was truly a one of a kind man,” Sandy said. “He knew the ins and outs of this place, had the funniest personality, and liked to play jokes on students from time to time. Dan always made it a point to talk to me and make me feel a little more at ease about being here. If it wasn’t for him, I would never have stayed here.”
A student worker and manager at the Library, Sandy always locked down the library with Peterson at the conclusion of operating hours.
“He made college more enjoyable and I couldn’t wait to hear what good stories he would have every time he came to lock up,” Sandy said. “Wittenberg is losing such a wonderful man. I am beyond grateful for the chance to meet him and work with him these past two and a half years.”
Balliet talked about some of her favorite memories of Peterson, as well as what he has become well known on campus for.
“Dan frequently rides his bicycle during campus patrol, even during colder weather, and trains the other officers in the techniques of bike control,” Balliet said.
The Police Division held a retirement party on Nov. 30 for Peterson, highlighting his career as a security officer for Wittenberg; the last full-time security officer Wittenberg has. Peterson said that one of his most memorable times of Wittenberg was the couch burnings that took place awhile back.
“[Campus] is a lot better now, and hopefully they won’t start going out and burning couches again,” Peterson said.
Peterson also said that Wittenberg’s tradition of streaking provides entertainment for him and his fellow officers.
“It’s funny when you already see them and then they take off and try to hide,” Peterson said. “I already saw you, it doesn’t make a difference.”
To all the Wittenberg students he is leaving behind, Peterson shared some words of advice.
“Just tell the kids to be good,” Peterson said. “And to have fun because this is the time that they’re going to remember the most. And don’t pass out in the grass, that’s bad.”
On a more serious note, Peterson shared his advice toward studying.
“Just be yourselves and have fun,” Peterson said. “Don’t over study. When you’re studying and pulling an all-nighter, your brain is going to forget half the stuff you were studying for.”
Although Peterson is leaving Wittenberg for a new adventure, he says he won’t forget about the faculty, staff, officers and students he is leaving behind.
“There’s been a couple kids that said you can’t leave until I graduate,” Peterson said. “That happens all the time.”
Southern has stepped down due to personal reasons, according to Lieutenant Lee McCartney.
As the end of the semester approaches, McCartney says that the Police Division will be beginning a search for two new officers to replace Peterson and Southern.
“Anytime you get a position open, you have to get approval through the administration before you can begin,” McCartney said. “We’re in the process of getting that done.”
Potential officers will go through an interview and various testing, including vision, hearing, drug and psychological tests, which will all take approximately six weeks.
After being hired, the new officers will go through a 10-12 week field training, shadowing a training officer. Depending on the officer’s prior experience, this field training can either be longer or shorter. These new officers, according to McCartney, will typically begin working with an 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift.
“This gives them an opportunity to interact with more of the students during that time,” McCartney said.