Campus: CSU, Long Beach -- August 21, 2000

Cal State Long Beach Students Add Security to Democratic Convention

While things sometimes got a little crazy outside the Staples Center at the recent Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Los Angeles, it was a lot calmer on the inside thanks in great part to 29 Cal State Long Beach students who served as volunteer security personnel.

"Everyone we worked with lauded our students," said Harv Morley, a CSULB Criminal Justice professor overseeing the group, who has specialized in law enforcement/security relations and major event security for the past 17 years. "They were commended for their professionalism by everyone from the L.A.P.D. to the Highway Patrol to the Secret Service."

Morley says the students from his Criminal Justice 499 class, the only group from any university taking part in security at the DNC, received specialized classroom training in security issues and were so impressive they were immediately placed into supervisory roles.

"They were so thrilled with our group," said Morley, who had a similar crew at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. "We looked extremely professional and stood so above the general volunteer. Our kids are top-notch and I was very proud of them." Armed with wireless radios, the students were placed inside the Staples Center above the perimeter of the floor, holding steady at their positions for more than 12 hours on each of the convention's four days. By Morley's calculations, his 29 students volunteered 1,624 man-hours during the four-day stretch.

"The days start out slow," noted junior Criminal Justice major Karim Oscoff, "but once it gets busy time flies."

The majority of their responsibilities revolved around making certain individuals had the proper credentials. It may sound like easy duty, but try telling a congressman's wife or a senator's husband they don't have the correct credentials to gain access to a particular area and things can get a little heated.

"This was not about just getting the kids into the convention to watch the convention," Morley explained. "They went there to learn and work in what I can best describe as a 'living laboratory.' It allowed them to put theoretical concepts into actual practice."

Morley pointed out that watching the relationships between the various inter-acting law enforcement agencies is an education in itself, as is the observance of any kind of problems. According to Morley, witnessing the resolution of even the smallest problems is sometimes a great learning experience.

"This was an unbelievable learning experience," Morley said. "That's the whole point, turning a negative or perceived negative into a positive. It gets me excited when I see them get excited. Our kids are not like general volunteers. This was deadly serious and my students wouldn't have been there if they didn't understand that."

While not all of the members of Morley's class have their sights set on a future career in law enforcement, he says about 80 percent of them aspire to such.

Bri O'Dowd is majoring in criminal justice but is not focused on a career in law enforcement. Instead, the senior who played professional soccer as a goalkeeper overseas in the early 1990s and this past summer in Italy, wants to be a professor and coach soccer at the university level. Still, she found working security at the DNC to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"This is definitely a confidence builder," said O'Dowd, who also worked at the Republican National Convention in San Diego in 1996. "I've learned a lot and I've gained a lot of self-confidence. I've learned to deal with people better, delegate authority well and how to make organization out of disorganization."

Oscoff jumped at the opportunity to volunteer at the DNC when it was offered the first day of class on July 10. Unlike O'Dowd, though, he is looking to a future in law enforcement, though working at the convention may have changed the specific path he takes.

"I was looking to work in drug enforcement for the federal government," he said, "but after working the DNC I think I want to look into possibly going into the Secret Service.

"This has been a life experience for me," says Oscott, who took time away from his job as part owner of a pizza store in Dana Point to volunteer. "After the first day we realized that we, CSULB students, had to take charge because a lot of the volunteers didn't really know what was going on. Professor Morley let us know exactly what we were supposed to be doing. Coming into the event, we were well prepared and had a better understanding than most of what was going on."

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