For­mer 9/11 re­spon­der ded­i­cates ser­vice to FAU stu­dents, com­mu­nity

The Palm Beach Post - Neighborhood Post - Western Palm Beach County - - Police Blotter - By Ky­oto Walker Spe­cial to The Palm Beach Post free­lancer@pb­post.com

The stu­dents at Florida At­lantic Univer­sity in Boca Ra­ton call Capt. Larry Ervin “Old School” be­cause he’s down-to - ear th and wants ev­ery­one to know that po­lice of­fi­cers are hu­man, too. The for­mer 9/11 first re­spon­der said chang­ing the neg­a­tive per­cep­tion of law en­force­ment of­fi­cers is dif­fi­cult, but he is work­ing hard to reach out to the stu­dents and the Boca Ra­ton com­mu­nity to im­prove re­la­tions.

Ervin said FAU’s cam­pus po­lice de­part­ment has es­tab­lished an ini­tia­tive to con­nect with stu­dents, sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hoods and uni­ver­si­ties through the Com­mu­nity Em­pow­er­ment De­part­ment of the cam­pus po­lice of­fice.

“My boss, Chief Sean Bram­mer, got the con­cept of ‘We pro­tect the Owls’ (the mas­cot of the univer­sity),” he said. “He came up with the con­cept of pro­tect­ing the ‘Owl habi­tat,’ and the Owl habi­tat is all the kids that come to the cam­pus.”

Ervin said cam­pus po­lice of­fi­cers take care of the peo­ple on cam­pus and put them­selves in the com­mu­nity to make sure they take care of the lo­cal res­i­dents, too.

“We (uti­lize) the com­mu­nity ini­tia­tive and take it out into the city as well, to make sure that ev­ery­one (is taken care of ) be­cause they embraces us and we em­brace them,” he said. “We have to (also) make sure that the kids em­brace the city as well.”

Ervin said the Com­mu­nity Em­pow­er­ment ini­tia­tive al­lows him to go to Boca Ra­ton neigh­bor­hoods and speak with res­i­dents as well as act as a li­ai­son for the stu­dents on FAU’s cam­pus and other sur­round­ing uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges.

“The stu­dent com­mu­nity loves us be­cause a lot of times (they) are liv­ing in dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties through­out South Florida,” he said. “They ex­pe­ri­ence po­lice (pres­ence) only when it’s nec­es­sary.”

Ervin, who is 65 and lives in Boca Ra­ton, said he lived in New York for most of his life and moved to Florida in 2003. He was a first re­spon­der af­ter the tragic 9/11 at­tacks.

FAU has reg­u­lar safety drills on cam­pus, Ervin said. Stu­dents and par­ents go over safety mea­sures dur­ing ori­en­ta­tion he ex­plained, for things such as an ac­tive shooter on cam­pus, which hap­pened re­cently in Park­land at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School where 17 peo­ple were killed.

“We have safety plans with their teach­ers. We have safety plans with the dor­mi­to­ries (and other or­ga­ni­za­tions on cam­pus),” Ervin said. “We meet with them pe­ri­od­i­cally and we go over the safety plans with them.”

The FAU Po­lice De­part­ment con­tin­ues to re­in­force the ne­ces­sity for emer­gency drills and they do “ac tive shooter” drills to make sure that ev­ery­one is in the com- mu­nity is safe, he said.

“We have drills through­out the cam­pus where we send a text mes­sages to their cell phones or (mes­sages) to the IT com­put­ers,” Ervin said. “It’s called ‘emer­gency alert tex­ting.’ We let them know, if this was an emer­gency, this is what you should do.”

As one of the first re­spon­ders dur­ing the 9/11 at­tacks, deal­ing with that tragedy has helped him bet­ter serve the stu­dents on cam­pus, he said.

“The rea­son it helps me is be­cause you un­der­stand that any­thing could hap­pen at any time,” Ervin said. “It helps me un­der­stand peo­ple. It teaches us not to take ev­ery­thing for granted.”

Law en­force­ment of­fi­cers usu­ally only re­spond to a call when there is a fire or some kind of prob­lem, and that doesn’t help to cul­ti­vate po­lice-stu­dent re­la­tion­ships, Ervin said.

“We are try­ing to be more ed­u­ca­tional. So there­fore we reach out to stu­dents with­out them hav­ing to call us for help,” he said. “On cam­pus, we have soror­i­ties and fra­ter­ni­ties and we in­volve our­selves with them. We as­sign our­selves to the dor­mi­to­ries to make sure each dorm has a com­mu­nity of­fi­cer. If there is a prob­lem, they know who to go to.”

Ervin said his fel­low FAU of­fi­cers gave him the nick­name “Old School” be­cause of his friendly na­ture that re­minds them of how life used to be. He said his great­est achieve­ment is reach­ing out to peo­ple and mak­ing a con­nec­tion.

“I’m al­ways smil­ing and I’m al­ways laugh­ing be­cause I be­lieve peo­ple need to see the other side of po­lice of­fi­cers,” Ervin said. “My nick­name is ‘Old School’ be­cause be­ing around dur­ing 9/11 and all those tragedies, (I re­al­ized) you have to let peo­ple have hope.”

What are his hob­bies? “Singing. I sing a lit­tle blues, a lit­tle Mo­town.”

At that, Ervin starts singing, “I’ve got sun­shine on a cloudy day …”

Ervin has two daugh­ters, Lau­ren and Lind­say. His wife’s name is Made­line. “My wife and I are part­ners in do­ing things to­gether, and that gives us hope and so­lace and she’s a big part of my life,” Ervin said.

CONTRIBUTED

Capt. Larry Ervin, a po­lice of­fi­cer at Florida At­lantic Univer­sity in Boca Ra­ton and for­mer first re­spon­der from New York, is work­ing to cul­ti­vate bet­ter re­la­tion­ships with stu­dents and city neigh­bor­hoods through the univer­sity’s Com­mu­nity Em­pow­er­ment ini­tia­tive.

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