Assessment brings improvements to Public Safety

Assessment+brings+improvements+to+Public+Safety

Christine Lee, News Editor

A search is underway for a new Director of Public Safety after an outside firm completed an assessment on the office.

The search process for the director is being done by a committee comprised of faculty and staff who are working with an outside consulting firm, Spelman and Johnson to identify potential candidates.

The search for a new Director of Public Safety is one of several initiatives being enacted to the Office of Public Safety after an evaluation was done of the office in January by consultants from Margolis, Healy and Associates. During the evaluation, associates from the firm gathered feedback from faculty, staff and students on Public Safety’s effectiveness in its policies and procedures. ¬†One of the major recommendations the firm made involved the visibility of public safety on campus.

“The more visible public safety officers are, the less likely people who want to come onto campus; who are thinking of coming onto campus to make some kind of trouble, the less likely it is they will do that,” Vice President of Finance and General Counsel Loren Prescott explained.

Prescott said to improve the office’s visibility on campus; several actions have been taken over the summer. Most notably Public Safety will be receiving new uniforms of yellow shirts and jackets with their navy pants. They will also receive a new Ford Explorer that will operate as a mobile dispatch unit in addition to a patrol vehicle.

Prescott said this new vehicle will be “very visible” on campus and added that the blue Fords being used by Public Safety are ones taken from the Admissions office that were no longer needed. They are being used until the new vehicle arrives.

In addition, Prescott explained patrol routes and schedules of officers have been changed. Two new patrol routes have been created for the campus: one on the interior of campus done either on foot or by bicycle and another done around the perimeter of campus done from the patrol cars.

“The officer will be in out of the vehicle and will do parking enforcement and will check doors,” Prescott said. “That officer will also go over to the athletic fields (at Ralston Field).”

Public Safety Manager Jerry Rebo said the changes have been good for the office.

“It’s been very beneficial. Officers seem to be in good morale and are welcome to the changes that are being made and we hope the community will see that it’s going to benefit them also,” Rebo said.

Rebo said the office’s new goal is to become a police department, with officers being highly trained in carrying firearms and have powers of arrest on campus.

Senior P1 pharmacy major Julie Miller sees the assessment as a good way for the senior administration to hear students’ imput on Public Safety.

“A lot of times Public Safety used to get a bad rap. You used to see them sitting around in Stark or you didn’t really see them a lot so I feel like this is (the administration’s) way of showing that they notice students were complaining and this is their way of getting students’ imput,” Miller said.

One of the observations made by Margolis, Healy and Associates was that the office doesn’t have an adequate training program the current training of officers is “informal.”

Prescott added that training of officers is being enhanced and there will be several new officers, both of which are former police officers, hired to boost staffing based on one recommendation the firm gave on ideal staffing levels.

In addition, Prescott said there will also be a separate dispatch staff of five full-time officers who will receive specialized training in dispatch operations, the type of training given to officers working in 911 call centers.

“One of the observations was that the Public Safety officers were doing dispatch work when they really should be out on patrol,” Prescott said.

Another observation made by the observations made by the firm includes a lack of consensus on campus on the role and expectations of the office.

Although the initial assessment was performed in January, Prescott sees the assessment as a multi-stage process, with the first stage the assessment itself and the second stage designed to engage the campus community in a conversation on what they expect from Public Safety and to implement the recommendations made in January.

As part of the second stage, forums with associates from Margolis, Healy and Associates were held on campus this month for faculty, staff and students to seek input on what the campus community wants from the office. Associate Aaron Graves from the firm and Prescott also sought input from members of Student Government on the office at the Sept. 11 meeting.

“The purpose of the forums was to share information but more importantly to engage the people who attended in a conversation about what we collectively, everyone here in the university community, wants and expects from Public Safety,” Prescott said.

The report also noted that Wilkes has a “shallow” crime prevention and safety awareness program, with frustration from the campus community on lack of information on what to do in an emergency situation. They also reported that the university should ensure effective emergency preparedness information is provided to members of the campus community.

Prescott stressed that even though Public Safety is charged with keeping the campus safe, it is up to members of the campus community to ensure safety, including sharing information with the office if something doesn’t look right.

“It’s important for everybody on campus to recognize that all of us have a role in Public Safety,” Prescott said.

The full summary of the assessment will be available for viewing in the Farley library.