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Department of Public Safety personnel share on-campus stories amid COVID-19

USC’s public safety officers and support staff discuss what it’s like to patrol and protect a nearly empty campus during a pandemic.

USC Heroes logo #TrojansTogetherThere is no working from home during COVID-19 for the 300-plus people who work for USC’s Department of Public Safety. Patrolling more than 5 square miles around both campuses, these officers and support staff watched thousands of students and faculty leave and not return. They’ve stayed on the job, driving empty streets to protect those who still inhabit the nearly deserted campuses and their neighbors nearby.

DPS public safety COVID-19

Phil Avila, right, a logistics manager with the USC Department of Public Safety, helps Officer Flavio Sanchez prepare to go on patrol. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

PHIL AVILA, specialized equipment manager:

“My team makes sure every officer has the personal protective equipment they need: goggles, gloves, N95 masks, face shields, surgery suits — everything the current regulations call for. I’m gearing up for when this is over. That’ll be the next whirlwind to come. Masks and gloves may be part of everyday life. I don’t think we’ll go back to the way things were.”

usc department of public safety officer

USC DPS Officer Audra Collier works her shift as a dispatch supervisor. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

AUDRA COLLIER, dispatch supervisor

“I got a call from a young man looking for a place to eat. He kept talking, though, and told me his dad had been diagnosed with COVID-19. That turned into a 15-minute conversation about his family. He thanked me for listening. Sometimes we serve as counselors, too.”

DPS coronavirus patrol

USC DPS Officer Ed Macias wears his mask while patrolling the University Park Campus. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

ED MACIAS, public safety officer, crisis intervention team:

“My partner and I are trying to make some kind of human contact on patrol, lifting up our masks from 20 feet away and flashing a smile. We see a lot of doom and gloom in people’s eyes. We’re lucky enough to be out here to pass on positivity.”

usc department of public safety officer

USC DPS Officer Michelle Velasco prepares to go on patrol. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

MICHELLE VELASO, community service manager at USC Village:

“Sometimes we have to be the bearer of bad news. People gather on the lawn, and we have to enforce social distancing. We’re open to the public and we have some students still living on the upper floors of the residential colleges. I’m grateful I can still come to work. A lot of people can’t.”

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Department of Public Safety personnel share on-campus stories amid COVID-19

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