Officer Brent O’Connor discusses becoming an officer and working at Xavier
Newswire photo by Soondos Mulla-Ossman | Brent O’Connor has been with Xavier for nearly four years. In high school, he was in the Explorer Program at the Hamilton County Sherriff Office. At 26, he attended Great Oaks Academy and then started working at Xavier immediately after.
For this Officer of the Month installment, the Newswire had the opportunity to sit down with Xavier University Police Department (XUPD) officer Brent O’Connor. The following is an edited transcript.
Have you always wanted to be a police officer?
I am very detail-oriented — I pick up on little minute details that a lot of people don’t, and the interacting with people, I enjoy that a lot. In high school, my brother got into law enforcement and I was like “man, that’s cool.” I could definitely see myself doing it. And I’ve always liked helping people. I think that a lot of people get left by the wayside, and I’ve always thought that I could do something to help a community or my community in some way. So that’s kinda of what piqued my interest for police work. And then before I went to the academy, I worked at a plant. I was moving into management, and they ended up closing down. I was either going to go into fire academy or police academy, and I decided police academy. So that put me here.
What the sheriff’s office did is we would meet once a week, and we would (practice) a scenario, you would learn how to approach a certain scenario, and it’d be kind of like a classroom. You’d take notes and learn about it. And then the next week, you’d practice. And to be honest, I think (those were) some of the most impactful things that I’ve learned and I still fall back on even now.
What is your favorite part about working with XUPD? Are there any highlights?
There was a student that I had heard absolutely wanted no contact with police. (He) grew up in a neighborhood that they didn’t call the police for anything unless it was a shooting or something, and even still, they didn’t really call them. So when I first started and first saw him and whatnot — I’m a very engaging person, so even if I don’t stop and talk to you, I’m gonna at least wave or give you a nod… He would immediately look away. He was actually moving from Kuhlman to the Commons and carrying four boxes at a time. And I stopped — I was in a car, and I stopped — and asked him if he wanted some help, and he (said), “Really? You gonna do that?” and it was a complete change in his demeanor toward the entire department. And to me that was probably the most gratifying thing I’ve experience here.
That’s a small thing (that you did for him).
Yes, and that’s what too many people don’t understand. The small, little things can make the biggest impact on somebody that you don’t even realize. And I think that’s awesome. That’s the most important thing for me.
What do you mean when you say Xavier’s whole parking situation is a pet peeve?
I think that there are a lot of things that could happen to make things easier on students, police and everybody involved. I think that there could be a garage put up somewhere. I’ve heard that the amount of money put into it wouldn’t be recouped, so that kind of negates that. I also think that permits could be different. There’s a resident and a commuter. I think you could have different levels. Since we’ve reduced the escorts that we offer, people were complaining about how far they have to walk. And if we could have a parking permit that allows you to park anywhere, make it — I think a permit’s $175 for resident — make it $400, something along those lines, then if you stepped it down, and allow somebody to park in either commuter or resident lots, you could do it for maybe $250—but I feel like there’s more opportunity than what is being used now. But it’s not my decision, and it’s just thoughts that I come up with.
Students see you a lot in Gallagher. Could you tell me a little more about that?
I drink coffee a lot. So I’d say probably initially, it was me going to get coffee at Coffee Emporium and maybe getting to know the baristas. Then it just kind of snowballed per se. And also I’ll stop and talk to the managers and try to have a little bit of rapport there. I feel like the longer I’m here, the more I talk to friends of the baristas and then friends of those friends and then friends of those friends, and it just goes farther and farther. And I’ve done some things with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) and the Office of Student Involvement (OSI), so it seems like the people I talk to down on the first floor end up being the ones that are also in the OSI and CDI, but nonetheless, I’ve gotten involved with things and gotten in contact with more and more students, and I’ll talk about anything with just about anybody.
(Two students) were talking about genetically engineered meat, and (one) is a vegan and (the other) was kinda messing with her if she would eat it because it’s not actually produced by an animal. It’s a very interesting topic. They talked for — I was there for maybe a half hour talking to them about it, but they were still talking about it when I left.
What do you do when you’re not on duty? What are your hobbieI have five kids, so they keep me busy. Usually when I’m off I’m playing with them or taking them to school. As far as hobbies, yes, I love sports. I’m an avid fantasy football player. My second oldest son, he plays baseball. He’s 9. So we often are out in the yard playing baseball, and now my [5-year-old] son… he’ll be starting to play more and more out there. So this summer should be pretty interesting. But other than that, I like to draw. But I don’t have much time for that anymore.
Is there anything you do that you feel students take for granted?
I think there are times that the department as a whole is taken for granted. But anything I do in particular that’s taken for granted, I wouldn’t say that per se. I feel like there are times that students lose sight of the fact that we are here to provide safety. And sometimes speeding is rampant across campus. That’s probably going to be a focus for our department in the next year — to try and reduce some of the safety issues in that regard on the roads. We’re gonna try to get it to be a little more focused on that. Something that students might not know is that I’m Rape Aggression Defense certified, which is a self-defense class for women that just started this year. So I’m trying to get the word out more and more for that.
One more thing that students might not know about — myself and officer Matt Randolph are trying to revitalize XUPD’s Facebook page and Twitter account and possible Instagram in the future. We’ll see. But we’re hoping to get the following there much higher. He just started taking it over two weeks ago and asked me to help, so I’d like to try and get the word out to as many students as possible.
Any final thoughts?
I don’t have any prophetic words of wisdom or anything like that. I appreciate the honor of being called the Officer of the Month. My sergeant told me when I got here yesterday, and I said, “Officer of the Month, is that a thing, what is that?”
I think it’s an awesome thing to start the Officer of the Month because all the officers that don’t necessarily get out and talk to as many people. I didn’t realize that there are so many people that read the Newswire. It’s pretty impressive how many students grab it and read through it. So I think that’s awesome to try and help the student body and even the faculty members get to know us because it’s hard for us to get to know really anybody, especially second and third shift where I get here at 3 in the afternoon, and by 5, most of the faculty members are gone. Any office people are generally gone.
So if we get a call, we’re getting called to somebody we’ve never seen, we’ve never met, know nothing about. They know nothing about us, they don’t know what to expect, and it’ll help a lot to just try to break down that barrier a little bit and make people feel a little bit more comfortable with everybody.
By: Soondos Mulla-Ossman ~Copy Editor~