Director of Public Safety Jack Rogers bids farewell to OSU

jackWhen Jack Rogers was a Salem teenager pumping gas at a local station, he found himself working alone one hot summer afternoon, as a line of cars stretched out before him, waiting to fuel up.

At that moment, one of his regular customers, an Oregon State Trooper, stopped by to use the pay phone to call his office and buy a Coke from the vending machine. As he left, he told Rogers that he’d bought him a soda as well and left it on the counter to have when things slowed down. That random act of kindness, small as it was, had a huge impact on Rogers. In fact, it turned into a lifelong career.

“To this day I remember that act of kindness,” Rogers said. “I thought, ‘I want to be one of these guys.’”

Now, after more than four decades of service in law enforcement, Rogers is retiring from OSU as their first Director of Public Safety. His career was long and varied, but he said his best years were spent serving OSU.

After two years at Oregon State University studying business administration, Rogers enlisted with the U.S. Marine Corps, and when he came out of the Corps, he decided that it was time to make good on his youthful ambitions, so in 1972 he joined the Oregon State Police. After a long career that criss-crossed the state, he had the chance to come to OSU and work as station commander for OSP in 1995.

“Out of my entire state police career, working all over the state on many assignments, I found my most rewarding position to be here at OSU, based on the fact that I was able to work with OSU students, staff and faculty,” he said.

In December 1999, he decided to retire and ‘head out into the sunset,’ but fate, and OSU, had another thing in mind. Instead they offered him an opportunity he couldn’t pass up, to fill a newly created position as Director of Public Safety at OSU. The position allowed him to continue working closely with OSP, while expanding on his already solid ties with the OSU community.

“Coming on as Director of Public Safety allowed me to continue to work in my field and maintain the strong relationships I’ve had with OSP, and OSU.”

While OSP provides professional law enforcement and criminal investigations on campus, the Department of Public Safety is responsible for campus security, building safety and public services like vehicle unlocks, escorts and jump starts. They provide liaisons to residence halls, offer training programs for students, and in general provide the face that OSU students and staff connect with safety on campus.

As director, Rogers has overseen the public safety unit and served as liaison between OSU and OSP. He’s mentored other officers and has had the chance, during some of his interactions with students in trouble, to watch some of them turn their lives around. Some of his proudest moments have come during commencement, when he’s seen students who were once in trouble with the law managing to get their lives in order and achieve their graduation goals.

“You recognize some of these folks you’ve had to deal with, and see that they were successful in turning things around and getting their education,” he said.

He’s had brushes with celebrities on campus, including Hilary Clinton and John Glenn, but he said it was the richness of the campus community that really kept him excited about coming to work.

“Working at OSU allowed me to become familiar with countless students and staff of different backgrounds, ethnicities and persuasions,” he said. “Learning about different cultures and customs was intriguing to me. The importance and value of diversity was evident on a daily basis.”

But as much as he’s enjoyed the relationship side of his job, his first priority has always been the safety of OSU students and staff, especially as the number of campus shootings has increased over recent years.

“The increase in school shootings has caused everyone to step back and take a hard look at ourselves,” he said. “Are we doing everything we can to keep our campuses safe?”

In order to keep law enforcement sharp, OSP troopers and Public Safety officers have taken part in numerous training sessions and seminars, as well as keeping abreast of the most current information on handling campus violence.

“It’s something we can never, never get out of our minds,” he said. “We’re always thinking about the ‘what ifs.’ Are we prepared?”

Training keeps officers and troopers sharp, but it also provides an added benefit.

“It allows our students, staff and faculty to see training scenarios first hand,” he said, and it also gives the campus the reassurance that “OSP and Public Safety have trained and have the capability of providing a swift response.”

While OSU has not faced an actual school shooting, in the recent past there have been physical attacks on students on or near campus that had the community on high alert. Rogers said he hopes that such incidents, while rare, help remind everyone that being alert and aware at all times is key, and that citizens have a responsibility to alert law enforcement to suspicious activity, because it’s the best way to prevent crimes from occurring.

“We rely on the eyes and ears of the public to take the time to phone that kind of information in so that we can provide an immediate response,” he said. “Follow your instincts. Report it to us immediately so that we can check it out.”

The age of smart phones has changed campus security for the better, Rogers said. Those signed up to receive emergency alerts through Public Safety (link) can now immediately be notified of potentially dangerous situations, and those witnessing a crime or suspicious behavior can directly contact dispatch to report it, rather than waiting until they get to a land line.

Lt. Chuck Yutzie will take over as interim director until a search can be conducted for Rogers’ replacement. While the decision to retire was difficult, Rogers wants to spend time with his 11 grandchildren and his elderly mother and mother-in-law, and get in a little time skiing, traveling and hunting as well. He leaves the department with a strong sense of satisfaction.

Rogers said he was very proud of the Public Safety and Oregon State Police staff members he worked with, and praised them for their dedication and devotion to duty.  “OSU is indeed fortunate to have these folks on our campus.”

“I feel really good about where the department is as far as the job we’re doing and the accomplishments we’ve made,” he said. “I’ve loved being a part of building a safe and secure environment for our students, staff and faculty.”

A retirement celebration will be held for Rogers on Aug. 6, 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the MU Lounge. The public is welcome to attend.

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