University Police Services Sgt. Toni Summerlin takes her job and the need to take precautions against infection seriously. Her young children find her a bit silly. Here's how she's spending her days on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is it like being on campus now?
The campus has a strange, eerie silence about it. It’s a ghost town for the most part. We occasionally will see individuals from the community walking their dogs or exercising but really it’s pretty quiet. To see our campus communities that were once bursting with life and laughter now so bleak and empty is not our norm. We just don’t like not seeing our students, faculty, and staff members that we have built friendships with.
For those that come to campus, they will still see us out on patrol, making contact with individuals that are on campus, checking buildings and ensuring to keep everything safe, locked down, and ready for when we open the campus back up to resume normal business — and we can’t wait for that day to come!
What has been a pleasant surprise?
Everyone has been so supportive of University Police and what we are doing to help keep the campus and our community safe. We continue to protect those that couldn’t return home and are still in the dorms, those that have to oversee research projects, and those that can’t necessarily work remotely from home. We have received a large number of thanks and appreciation from the community, and we appreciate the support and we hope to continue to make them proud.
What's your day typically look like right now? What's the same and what's different from your pre-COVID routine on campus?
A typical day for us right now, honestly, hasn’t changed much as far as responding to calls for service. We are still operating “business as usual” because no matter what type of call we may be responding to, we have a job to do. We have to continue to ensure the safety of our campus and the community we serve. There is a lot less traffic with the empty parking lots. However, we are still seeing vehicle and foot traffic on the streets surrounding our campus.
The biggest difference you may see now is when we are responding to calls. We now show up with more gear than normal. You are likely to see us responding in PPE (personal protective equipment) which may include a mask, protective goggles, and gloves.
Do you see a silver lining in all of this?
Hopefully, this situation gives people a renewed sense of family and encourages people to slow down in life, to realize what and who is important. Hopefully, people will take a step back from their own personal wants and reach out to loved ones more often, offer a helping hand to those in need, and be thankful every day for what they have. If this has taught us nothing else, it is showing us how precious life is and how easily it can all be lost.
As a sergeant, what are some "wise words" you have shared with your unit?
I have continued to stress to the troops that we have a job to do. We have a community that is depending on us to keep them safe, to help them feel more at ease during this very difficult time. We all took an oath to protect and serve and that hasn’t changed. With that being said, I am unbelievably proud of our officers. Their sacrifices to continue to come to work each and every day knowing they are at risk does not go unnoticed. Being in law enforcement is an honor, but working alongside these brave men and women that continue to show up every single day is a privilege!
Have there been any mishaps or funny moments at home with your family because of all of these changes?
The biggest change for me at home and what seems to make my toddlers laugh at me the most is undressing in our backyard prior to coming into my home. Many of us have spouses and children, and we are doing everything we can to ensure we do not infect or bring home the virus to our loved ones. So for me, that means my routine when I come home from work has changed.
I now go straight to my backyard, undress out of my clothes that I wear to and from work, place those in a plastic bag to be disinfected and then head straight to the shower. I do all of this prior to saying hello, giving hugs and kisses. It’s a few extra steps to keep my family safe and try my best to not expose them to anything that may be on my clothing. At first my littlest one was sad Momma didn’t pick him up, but now both my toddlers sit at the back window and giggle. To them, it is entertaining to see momma shivering out on the back patio, hoping the neighbors aren’t watching.
Tell us about your family.
I have a 3-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son who are both considered special needs. Both of my children love music, but my daughter loves dancing the most. Due to COVID-19 we have been doing FaceTime family dinners and recently we started "family dance parties." We FaceTime my three sisters, whom my daughter lovingly refers to as TiTi's, and then my parents, Mimi and Papa, and we turn on music and she dances and everyone on the screen dances along with her. It's her favorite thing to do right now and the little guy will follow along in his gait trainer. My son also just learned how to walk on his own without his gait trainer for the very first time! They told us he would never be able to walk or function on his own and he proved them wrong! Since I was at work, my husband was able to video tape his very first steps so I could share in the memory. I am not normally a crier, but there were definitely happy tears that day at work!
How are you occupying your time at home?
I am still working my normal shift and many overtime hours so I don’t have extra time at home. When I am home, I am spending as much time with my littles ones as possible while trying to catch up on some much-needed rest and then doing some at-home workouts to stay fit and in shape.
What's one of the first things you will do when Las Vegas "opens back up" again?
I will be going to see my family — my grandparents, parents, sisters, niece, and nephew. That's probably the hardest part of all of this — being separated from family. But I also had a birthday during this lockdown period, so I will be going to dinner with my family at our favorite restaurant, Echo & Rig, to celebrate!