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Of the new crop of six University Police officers who joined the Division of Public Safety last week, Nicole Taylor will feel the most at home when she hits the streets later this month. That's because Taylor has already walked the streets around campus for a year -- as a Spectaguard walking patrol specializing in the area west of 40th Street. Now no one calls her a "rent-a-cop" anymore. Taylor's superiors have dubbed her an "ambassador." As the first Spectaguard security guard to be trained and hired as a University Police officer under a new Penn initiative, Public Safety officials hope the 26-year-old West Philadelphia native will also serve as a "bridge" between the University Police and Spectaguard, the company the University has contracted with to provide campus security guards since January 1997. Initially, some training and communication problems dampened relations between Spectaguard and University Police, problems that officials have worked hard to address. While officials say relations between the two entities have further improved since the consolidation of police operations with Spectaguard in a new Division of Public Safety headquarters earlier this year, Taylor's promotion marks a type of integration of the two services that is unprecedented. Spectaguard and Public Safety occupied offices several blocks from each other before the two groups jointly moved into the former warehouse at 4040 Chestnut Street the University renovated at a cost of $2.5 million. "The rapport [between police and Spectaguards] could be improved," Taylor conceded in an interview this week. "That all comes with the officers' communication amongst themselves, not with the management." Officials also hope Taylor's new status as a police officer, and a University employee, will lure more security guards to Penn's campus. For a Spectaguard walking patrol earning $10 an hour, the prospect of joining University Police, a relatively small, elite force with better benefits than the Philadelphia Police Department -- including free University tuition -- is quite an attractive one. "I want to absorb all the classes I can," Taylor said, adding that her main interests are law and criminology. And if she has anything to do with it, her 4-year-old son will attend Penn when his time comes, she said. The University's revamped mortgage program encouraging Penn employees to live in the area is also a plus for Taylor, who hopes to buy a house in the Overbrook section of West Philadelphia in the coming years. According to Spectaguard Assistant Vice President Gesi McAllister, who oversees the Penn account, the initiative is part the company's strategy to lure Spectaguards working across the city to consider transferring to the Penn campus. McAllister said she expects two or three walking patrols to be hired by University Police twice a year, based on "superior verbal skills and customer service" and a certain score on their official evaluations. For Public Safety, it also means hiring police who are already knowledgeable about their surroundings. Taylor, who started working for Spectaguard at the Community College of Philadelphia about 18 months ago, said she does not anticipate patrolling as an officer will be "that different" from patrolling as a security guard. "[When] I came to Penn, I knew that in the long run I wanted to become a police officer," she said, adding that she had already applied to become a Philadelphia Police officer when she was approached with the opportunity to work for the University Police. But Taylor, a former cosmetologist who began her security career to avoid the "fluctuating income" of the beauty business, said she never aspired to work in public safety long-term until she became a walking patrol. "I'm really an outside person," she said. "I can't wait to get out again."

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