Get to Know: Jason Newton
In November 2007 Jason Newton pulled three college girls from a burning car in Sherwood, Ore., after a drunk driver, going 65 mph down the wrong side of the street, crashed head-on into their vehicle. Arriving at the scene as the students were trapped in the car by flames, Newton yelled to them to get down, then struck the left rear window until it shattered. He broke out the glass pieces, told the closest woman to wrap her arms around him, and dragged her out.
The flames grew so hot Newton and another officer could approach the car for only a few seconds at a time. The tires popped from the heat and the seams on Newton’s trousers melted. Three of the George Fox University students were saved. It was later learned that the fourth student, whom the officers were unable to rescue, had been killed on impact.
Newton, CC’s new campus resource officer, sat through an hour-long interview for an Around the Block profile and never mentioned the incident – or the fact that he and another officer were named as national Hero Cops in 2008 for their actions.
“I’m not big into awards, but I have passion for what I do,” he said later.
Newton is a Colorado Springs police officer who is serving as a liaison between the college and the police department. He’s been with the CSPD for three years, where he has focused on narcotic investigations; prior to that he served as a cop for four years in Oregon. A native of Wisconsin, he is a 2003 graduate of Western Oregon University, where he studied criminal justice, minored in psychology, and ran track.
Newton will be patrolling CC and the neighborhood by foot, bike, and car. His goal is to build trust and relationships on the college campus and nearby neighborhoods.
“This is an experimental position for the fall semester,” says Ron Smith, director of campus safety, noting there is no cost to the college for the pilot program. Newton is the CSPD’s officer dedicated to CC, and serves as a liaison between the college, the surrounding neighborhood, and the police department. “This provides supplemental campus patrol and more coverage in the neighborhoods. It’s helping the city by reducing calls for service from this area,” Smith says.
Newton and John Lauer, director of residential life and housing, currently are visiting with representatives from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where a similar program is in place. UW-Madison has a community police officer assigned to the campus, as well as a campus security staff. Newton and Lauer are learning how the relationships work between residential life, campus security, and the community police officer. UW-Madison has been fine-tuning their program for 12 years, and their experience should prove instructive for CC, Lauer says.
“This goes back to the community policing model,” Newton says. “I hope to serve as a resource for students, faculty, and staff, as well as the CC neighbors. I want to build trust and communication, and have people feel free to come to me.
“I want them to be able to ask me about anything – if they have a problem at home, or questions about the community. I want to be a mentor and a friend,” he says.
Newton is no stranger to the CC: His fiancée, Andrea Weatherford, is a 2002 Colorado College graduate who introduced him to CC hockey, and he’s been a dedicated fan ever since. (They plan to get married in mid-September.) He’s also familiar with the college – and its neighbors. During the last several years Student Life and Residential Life have asked the CSPD to send an officer meet with students and discuss such things as the importance of being good neighbors on- and off-campus, how to host safe parties, and personal safety.
“Whenever they needed a volunteer to talk at CC, I would jump on it. I’d go whenever there was an opportunity to talk with the students,” Newton says. The collaborative effort between CC and the local police department paid off: Last year a student who felt comfortable with Newton called him saying “We need help with this party – it’s gotten out of control.” Later, when an irate neighbor also called Newton, he was able to say, “Yes, we know about the party – the students have already called and asked for our assistance.” The neighbor, says Newton, was very surprised.
“When this job came up, I saw it as a tremendous opportunity. I’m really excited about it and I want to put myself in the community. I want to be a part of as many things as I can,” Newton says.
Apparently that won’t be a problem. Newton went to each of the first-year residence halls during orientation, introducing himself and getting to know the students. He happened to visit Slocum Hall when some students were baking banana bread, and was promptly invited to have some. He ended up spending about 30 minutes in the kitchenette there, surrounded by students. “It was great,” he says. “And the banana bread was great, too.”