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Public Safety Senior Officer William Heckstall has worked for Wesleyan more than 20 years.
 
Posted 03.15.05

Officer Spends 23 Years Keeping Campus Safe

In his distinctive black, gray and red uniform, a shimmering silver badge and a belt equipped with a jingling set of keys and nightstick, Public Safety Senior Officer William Heckstall appears daunting from afar. But once eye-contact is made with this 6-foot-3, broad-shouldered officer, his sweet, signature smile overwhelms his face.

“I like to greet everyone with a friendly smile, and let them know I’m a nice guy and can be trusted,” officer “Hex” says, modeling his beaming grin.

For 23 years, Officer Heckstall has patrolled Wesleyan’s campus. Originally hired by Wesleyan as a guard, Heckstall was promoted to a senior officer in 1993. When he started, there were seven patrol people; the department now has 17 officers and three patrol people working day and night shifts.

He spends his days with one mission in mind – to promote a safe environment for Wesleyan’s students, staff and faculty. When he’s not responding to reports, he is checking buildings on campus, doing parking enforcement and responding to calls for service such as medical escorts.

“I’m always on the lookout for safety hazards,” he says. “This could be anything from blown-out light bulbs to cracks in the sidewalk.”

While on duty, Heckstall takes turns with other officers, patrolling sections of campus by car. He routinely stops to talk walk-through the dorms and other buildings, looking for any hazards and making sure there are no broken locks.

Near the end of his shift Heckstall reports back to his office at 208 High Street for his least-favorite part of the job – writing reports.

“I much rather be out with public than in here, writing reports, but that’s a big part of the job, too,” he says.

Heckstall, an avid weight-lifter and long-distance runner, looks forward to campus-patrol duty in April. In 1995, Public Safety initiated bike patrol, which commences after the snow melts and continues through late fall.

Public Safety personnel on the bicycle are able to navigate through campus with greater ease than officers in patrol vehicles and faster than personnel on foot.

“Many areas of the campus are only accessible by walkways or one-way roads,” Heckstall says. “The bike patrol ads a great dimension to our work. We can respond to an event in a matter of minutes, rather than having to get through traffic.”

The bike patrol is just one way Public Safety strives to make Wesleyan a safer environment. Throughout Heckstall’s double-decade career, the department has set up emergency police/fire boxes and blue light phones, a campus shuttle service and an electronic card access system. Residence halls have been further secured with locking exterior doors. Public Safety also offers tips on its website regarding identity theft, bicycle security, jogging security, sexual assault awareness, and nuisance/harassing telephone calls.

In addition, all first-year students receive a campus safety brochure.

“Students can feel real safe here at Wesleyan,” Heckstall says. “Our office works very hard to keep the campus safe. Crime prevention is a partnership we share with our entire community and we need everyone’s help.”

Maryann Wiggin, director of Public Safety says the officers can always rely on Officer Heckstall for special assignments.

"William takes his responsibilities very seriously," Wiggin says. "He has tremendous people skills, provides great customer service. He's someone I depend on and it's great to have him on the public safety staff."

When not in uniform, Heckstall said he can be found at the gym or spending time with his twins. His son, Elijah, attends Trinity College; his daughter, Ebony, goes to Syracuse University.

He also likes to watch sports, especially basketball. The 1979 graduate of North Carolina’s Campbell University played Division 1 hoops.

“I’ve played against some of the pros,” he says, grinning. “Sometimes, I think I should have stayed with it.”

Being a dad of college-age kids helps him relate even better with Wesleyan’s student body.

 “I think I have a great rapport with the students,” he says. “If I can help one, two, 50 or 100 of the students out there, I feel that I have done my job.”

By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection editor