By DANIEL VELASCO
Joshua Blum is a Pima Community College Police sergeant and DUI coordinator who’s worked for Pima since 2012.
Through his years of service, he’s seen it all, from assaults to stolen laptops.
Q: How many police officers work for Pima? (all campuses)
“Thirty-one right now. All campuses are staffed by one single police department. Each officer is assigned to campus based on staffing needs of the day.”
Q: What are some factors that would require different staffing needs?
“Events, or if we see certain crime trends, we’ll stack up officers on that campus. Depends, based on community needs of day.”
Q: What made you decide to become a police office for Pima?
“I enjoyed working for a smaller agency; it allows me to provide more engagement to the community rather than employ services as quickly as possible so that I can move on to the next call.
“For instance, the staff at the agency of Tucson is pretty low. They take calls for service as fast as they can to move onto the next one. We are able to engage with our community more and follow up more with our community.”
Q: What’s the process of becoming a police officer?
“First you apply online; you take a physical agility test; then there’s a written test. And the folks who move on from the written test and physical test oral board interview channel that involves officers and other members of the college that interview each applicant. Then the board recommends to move the person on or not recommend them.
“Then there’s the same idea, an oral board interview with … administrators from the college, who ask their own questions. After that, the applicant moves onto a medical test. They go to a doctor’s office, and if they meet all the medical requirements … then there’s a background examination test. Just about your whole life history is looked into. Anything from previous employers, neighbors and even local police stations you’ve lived near.
“Then they look at school records and finally give you a polygraph test. After that, they decide whether or not send you to the police academy.
“Once you graduate, you move onto field training where you’re paired up with a senior officer who evaluates you for 16 weeks. Assuming you pass that, you move into a probationary period. After that probationary period, you then become a regular full-time police officer.
“The best way to describe everything is trying to drink water from a fire hose.”
Q: What’s taser training like?
“Pepper spray, handgun and baton training are all covered in the academy. Taser, however, is a separate class. You then have to take a written test regarding the legal limitations of that taser. This consists of what you’re allowed to do and what different court rulings have said regarding tasers. Then there’s qualification that requires you to hit an actual target.”
Q: What are the legal limitations of using a taser?
“All use of force by officers is governed under the Graham v. Connor case. This Supreme Court case allows for the use of force to stop a prevented arrest, escape or to protect the lives of yourself or someone else. There are different standards in which each case is evaluated. These standards are referred to as the Graham factors. This includes lines of opportunity … ability and jeopardy. There’s more legal aspects to police work than what a lot of people realize.”
Q: Does every police officer need to get sprayed and tased after training?
“We are required to be exposed to pepper spray. The reasoning … is to first off know what that feeling is like so that we may have better judgement, and two is for preparation of future exposure. Taser, however, is optional.”
Q: Have recent social issues affected you?
“The issues present today have been around for generations. However, with the advent of smartphones and social media, these issues are more apparent. The profession of the police is dependent on mutual trust. Transparency is important. And these new inventions can assist with that. The only issue I would have is folks often make judgements without looking at the facts first. They look at something or listening to what someone else said without doing any research.”
Q: What are some misconceptions people have about college police?
“One that always gets mentioned when discussing my profession is that our jobs are safer than the jobs of typical city police. Realistically, we’re dealing with the same people. For example, I’ve been assaulted physically more times than I can list off the top of my head.”
Q: Is there any serious danger and criminal activity Pima students should be aware of?
“Realistically, Pima students are extremely privileged by having a police department dedicated to their needs and not distracted by the city itself. Having a police department stationed at the campus allows for a level of service you simply can’t have anywhere else. I’d say that Pima College is typically safer than most areas around the city.”
Q: Has there been an event you’ve been through that has made you feel grateful to be a part of the force?
“Whenever I can truly help someone in need. It can be anything as small as returning a lost dog or bigger issues like helping a victim of violence escape their cycle of abuse. The police are kind of a catchall and people who are in over their heads can call us and we’ll help get your heads back up over water.”
Q: How can students stay safe on campus?
“The common crimes we have around here are theft. If you leave it, lock it. That’s the motto we always tell students. Oftentimes people leave a laptop on a table while they use the restroom and come back to find it gone. As far as remaining directly safe goes, be aware of your surroundings. If you maintain a good situational awareness, you can stay away from any safety concerns.”
Q: What’s your favorite cop joke?
“I arrested my wife after I found cash in the laundry. Wanna know what I arrested her for? Laundering money!”