Sergeant Rebel Roberts teaches women, confronts moose

by Kay Fukunaga | 2/12/03 6:00am

Despite what people might say, these days not all rebels are without a cause.

For Dartmouth students, the search for such a rebel with a cause might even be easier than anticipated, as they need look no farther than Safety and Security Sergeant Rebel Roberts.

Roberts, who became a security guard at 18 just after completing her first year at New Hampshire's Keene State College, has spent the last two decades working in law enforcement.

While most people are able to separate their work and home life, for Roberts the two often become inextricably intertwined.

Not only is she married to a sergeant from the Hartford Police Department, but her two stepsons are also police officers.

"I'm hoping that at least my 11 and seven-year-old sons will attend college and graduate school before deciding they want to become police officers," Roberts said with a laugh.

Though Roberts speaks of her family as always having been her first priority, she sees no reason why she cannot be equally passionate about her work.

Through the years, she has helped to organize and instruct the Rape Aggression Defense Program, an international program developed specifically for women to recognize and utilize their strengths in fending off aggressors.

One common misconception about the program is that it involves only the acquisition of martial arts or other fighting techniques.

Roberts, however, emphasizes that a very important component of the program comes through the thought experiments.

"What would you do if your car broke down in a relatively rural area with lights in the distance, but quite a ways off? Would you stay in the car, head towards the lights or wait at the side of the road?" Roberts asked.

"It is situations like this, ones that people often do not think about until they are upon us, that are important to contemplate beforehand," Roberts said.

Besides RAD, Roberts is also part of a program called Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.

CEPED involves a partnership between architects, landscapers, and crime prevention specialists like Roberts.

"We'll sit down with the architects and pour over the building plans and point out possible problematic areas, like a study lounge being too tucked away," Roberts said.

During CEPED sessions, every detail is examined and reexamined.

"Things you wouldn't normally think of, something as simple as a prickly shrub under a dorm window, can make all the difference in discouraging prowlers," Roberts said.

While the typical work week for Roberts involves a lot of patrolling as well as community education programs, it never can quite be described as falling into a routine.

"See that?" Roberts said, pointing to a the image of a moose set as the background on a computer at the Safety and Security headquarters, "that's the moose we followed around campus last year. There is always something different. We've actually had S and S officers who have helped to deliver babies."

Yet, while Roberts' work undergoes continuous change, there are some ground rules that she likes to keep constant.

"I think the saying goes 'random acts of kindness, senseless acts of beauty.' I try to live by those words ... Like, for example, no one leaves my office without taking some candy," Roberts said, whipping out a plastic tub filled with an assortment of candies.