Finding yourself in a room full of police officers is usually indicative of a bad situation. This was not the case, however, for the dozens of people who assembled in Fagin Hall Wednesday evening for the Division of Public Safety’s Spring Commendations Ceremony.
The event honored a number of personnel from the Penn Police Department, the Philadelphia Police Department, PennComm Operations Center, campus security services — including Allied Barton and University City District — and the Medical Emergency Response Team for their commitment to promoting safety and security at Penn.
Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush kicked off the awards by presenting a special honor to Afaf Meleis, the outgoing dean of the Nursing School, to show “sincere appreciation” for Meleis’ partnership with DPS over her 12 years at Penn.
“This building was the first building to be Operation Building Safe compliant ... because [Meleis] made security a priority,” Rush said of Fagin Hall. Rush explained that Operation Building Safe is an initiative that DPS created to bolster security at entry points of campus buildings.
Officer Socks, DPS’ first K-9 partner, was officially sworn in as part of the ceremony.
By touching the hand of her partner, Penn Police officer Julie Wesley, Officer Socks took her oath of duty, vowing to “sniff out danger wherever it seeks to infiltrate [the] community” by using the skills she learned over a 13-week training course in bomb detection.
Following Officer Socks’ initiation, the ceremony shifted to recognize the efforts of nearly 100 individuals for their responses to specific incidents that occurred earlier this year and in 2013.
“The thing that I am most proud of is that everyone here has heart,” Rush said. “We are in law enforcement, but we are law enforcement in a university environment where we are taking care of people and people’s children, and I think everyone here tonight recognizes that.”
A group of officers were lauded for the work they carried out between Dec. 3, 2013 and Dec. 23, 2013. During this period, the officers investigated a string of armed robberies that struck two Cosi restaurants in Philadelphia — including the Cosi located at 36th and Walnut streets — as well as an IHOP in New Jersey. The officers’ persistent efforts led them to apprehend a suspect who later admitted to being involved in each of the robberies.
Toward the end of the festivities, representatives from the Undergraduate Assembly and the Graduate and Professional Students Assembly presented Public Safety Recognition Awards to seven public safety employees who had been selected through a student-run nomination process.
Additionally, Fire and Emergency Services Chief Eugene Janda recognized members of MERT for expanding the organization’s presence at Penn. He praised MERT’s improved social media presence, increased faculty outreach, work with the Greek community and enhanced CPR and first aid awareness.
The ceremony closed on a note of new beginnings, as Rush and Janda presented a new award — the John A. Cook Award — to Thomas Hauber, executive director of the Vice Provost for University Life Facilities. The award is named after John Cook, a former member of DPS's Fire and Emergencies Services Department who retired last spring after serving at the University for 28 years.
Correction: A previous version of this article referred to John Cook as a former Penn Police officer. Cook is a former member of DPS's Fire and Emergencies Services Department.