When explaining how he feels about his new job at Bowdoin, Director of Safety and Security Randall T. Nichols says, "I find it...immensely satisfying."
Nichols replaced Bruce Boucher as director after 27 and a half years of service with the Maine State Police.
Nichols's experience has been varied. He worked in broadcasting for radio station WFAU Augusta, Maine for about five years before switching to law enforcement. His roles as a member of the Maine State Police were also diverse, giving him a well-rounded accumulation of knowledge to bring into his work at Bowdoin.
His interest in law enforcement was sparked by his father who was the chief of the Maine State Police until 1976. Nichols recalls talking to his dad on the porch about how he wanted to try something new, and his father suggested that the state police would be a good fit.
Nichols explains that it has been a "great career, [with] a lot of excitement...[you] see all aspects of life as a police officer?the good and the bad. But the good far outweighs the bad."
During his time with the state police, Randy Nichols had multiple titles as he worked his way up the ranks. He was a trooper for six years, beginning in 1978. He then spent time working in community relations before becoming a sergeant and then a lieutenant on the Maine Turnpike. After ten years of experience there, he became a major and served as the operations major.
As operations major, Nichols was in charge of the troopers statewide as well as the criminal division, which included everything from conversing with the media to detective work.
In addition, he piloted several programs in the state of Maine, including one of which he is most proud, "Safe Guard."
Safe Guard is a program Nichols developed in conjunction with other officers shortly before his retirement from the Maine State Police. The program involves increased communication between police officers and parents, with the idea that parents should be called when warning signs come up and not just when their child is either dead or in serious trouble. Officers were told to ask themselves if they would want to know about something if they were a child's parents, and decide whether or not to call parents based on that instinct.
While similar programs have been implemented in individual communities, Maine's program is unique in that it is state-wide. Nichols points out that there is no cost; the program is simply an operational procedure.
This interest in safety, especially the safety of young people, is, in large part, what drew Nichols to Bowdoin. He says that he is "extremely committed to safety?especially of young people?because they're the most at risk." When it comes to crime, substance abuse, and motor vehicle accidents, "It's as simple as that."
In addition, he describes himself as a people person and a communicator who enjoys working in community relations.
While he thought leaving the state police would be hard, the transition here has been relatively easy for him. He says, "I'm thrilled to be here at Bowdoin, doing exactly what I want to be doing."
As far as his agenda on campus, Nichols is very ambitious in improving upon the methods in place to "keep Bowdoin safe." He has been talking with staff, faculty, and students to assess the campus situation.
As is the case on many college campuses, Nichols notes the false sense of security that many Bowdoin students demonstrate and reminds the student body that it is not beyond the arm of harm simply because it is inside of "the Bowdoin bubble." He points to the murders of Colby and Bates students that occurred in the last couple of years and the mugging of a professor that occurred on campus a few weeks ago as examples that unfortunate events can occur whether or not one is on a college campus.
He calls on the student body to help keep Bowdoin a safe place through awareness, by looking out for one another, by remembering that anyone can walk onto the Bowdoin campus, and by using and trusting their insticts.
If a person feels that something is not right, that instinct is likely to be correct and could help prevent a crime. Nichols says, "Anything that doesn't seem right, doesn't feel right... that's the time to call Security."
He says he doesn't want students to be paranoid, simply alert and aware. In this respect, Nichols explains that education and awareness are a huge part of Security's job.
Nichols cites lighting, pedestrian safety, personal safety, and alcohol abuse as particularly important issues at Bowdoin.
He recently led a lighting walk to assess the lighting on campus and is working to improve on-campus and off-campus lighting. He will meet with Central Maine Power Company to assess and improve the street lights.
As for the dangers to pedestrians, Nichols points out that the fluorescent yellow signs that mark the middle of crosswalks are all dented in multiple places, and the drivers students are trusting not to hit them are the same drivers who dent the signs.
As far as personal safety goes, Nichols encourages avoiding dangerous situations and knowing what to do if one finds oneself in a harmful predicament.
On the note of alcohol abuse, he is working closely with the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs and is trying to monitor more closely registered alcohol events and Jack Magee's Pub.
He explains, "We take firm action when there are alcohol policy violations because it's a direct threat to the student body."
He continues that Security's primary goal is to get people home safely and enforcement is secondary to that.
Nichols is working to increase his visibility in the College community.
To raise awareness about various issues of security, he has started a radio show on WBOR with colleague Mike Brown. The show, called "Listen," airs every Thursday from 3 to 4:30 p.m. and plays music, has guests, and has a major safety or security topic for every show. This year topics have included sexual assault prevention, crosswalk safety, and alcohol abuse.
He says he is having a lot of fun with the show, as he is able to joke around, play good music, help keep Bowdoin's students safe, and go back to his broadcasting days.
He is also able to do the latter through voice over work for various campaigns, such as a Maine Project Safe Neighborhood ad that is coming out soon.
In addition to what he's already doing, Nichols plans to upgrade security all over campus, including an increase in the number of security cameras, enhancing the professionalism of campus security to provide better service, and hiring a few new officers.
He is delighted with Bowdoin's student body, and his favorite part of his job is making contact with students. He says, "My plan is to be highly visible on campus...available and accessible."
He has no specific office hours because he wants to be more readily available to students on campus, who he encourages to approach him in person, call him, or email him any time, as he welcomes input from the student body.
While Nichols emphasizes that crime rates are low, the Brunswick Police Department is highly professional and has excellent response times, and a good campus emergency plan exists, personal safety cannot be taken for granted.
He reminds students, "common sense safety goes a long way."
On Nichols' work thus far at Bowdoin College, Katy Longley, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration wrote in an email:
"We are extremely fortunate to have Randy lead the Safety and Security Department at the College. His extensive background in law enforcement and community programs will be beneficial to Bowdoin, its students, faculty and staff. During his first two months here, he is already having a big impact."
"Since his arrival, he has interacted actively with the BSG, the dean's office, and many students in promoting student safety. I haven't heard his radio show yet, but I understand that it is a hit. Randy is enthusiastic, he has a lot of energy, and we are already benefiting from his presence," she wrote.
This positive impact on the community can be expected to continue, as Nichols states, "I love being at Bowdoin. I plan on being here for many years. I can't think of another job I'd rather have at this point in my life."