Michael Soto has been part of the campus for decades, ever since he was a student worker at the Portland State Bookstore nearly 30 years ago. Now the Campus Public Safety Chief is working to protect the PSU community and increase dialogue on campus about safety and security.
Michael Soto has been part of the campus for decades, ever since he was a student worker at the Portland State Bookstore nearly 30 years ago.
Now the Campus Public Safety Chief is working to protect the PSU community and increase dialogue on campus about safety and security.
“I always tell my officers that unless you like your job, you’re not going to do a good one,” Soto said.
Soto, who originally came to Portland from Santa Cruz, Calif., was only at the bookstore for a short time, before the former U.S. Marine joined Campus Safety in 1980.
“I got the benefit of working and getting my education simultaneously in the same field here at Portland State,” Soto said.
His pursuit of higher education continues today, as the father and grandfather tries to make time to complete his master’s certificate, which Soto has been working toward accomplishing for the past ten years.
“I love this school,” he said.
Soto has been chief since 2003 and says his main goal is, “trying to see what the perceived needs for safety and security for the university environment and meeting the community’s needs within that same environment.”
Heading a department of 14 full-time trained officers, five dispatchers and an operating lieutenant, Soto said he and his staff are committed to meeting the needs of the Portland State campus community.
In 2006, the department conducted a survey among students, staff and faculty to learn more about the expectations those groups had of Campus Safety.
“Based on the results of that survey, we made significant changes and made an effort to balance our department more,” Soto said.
In response to the growing number of “domestic disturbances” within campus housing, Soto’s staff was trained to resolve minor conflicts. This training is designed to help him better prepare his officers, and also help limit the number of arrests made due to minor conflicts.
Soto is actively involved on campus. He sits on at least a dozen various committees and task forces, volunteers with local Native American youth and played a role in developing the new “PSU Alert” emergency notification system. Yesterday, he held the first of his monthly “Meet the Chief Forums”.
After three decades working within Campus Public Safety, Soto said he has gained perspective on the professional development of the staff during that time.
“When I started, most of the people that worked here were just looking for more experience and then they would move on,” he said. “Now we have five officers that have been here 10 or 15 years. Campus security is becoming a desired profession in law enforcement.”
To continue to improve safety on campus, Soto said he has a focus.
“I want to get the students’ ideas and rely on them to improve the safety and security of this campus,” he said. “That is where my focus will always be.”