The last three years have been a period of tremendous change for the University Police Department. Three years ago, the "Department of Public Safety" was suffering from image problems and a lack of connection with students and faculty. Even the University administration didn't consider Public Safety officers real policemen, arguing in a contract fight that they were as much security guards as police. But things have changed. The department has made wholesale changes in administration, training and focus. They have hired dozens of new officers and added five new patrol cars. Many students and faculty said that it is now an organization more responsive to there requests and more understanding of their needs. Four years ago, when a wave of crime hit the 40th and Walnut streets area -- including the stabbing of three students and the shooting murder of a man in front of McDolnald's -- the response from the police was slow and minimal. Last semester, when a rash of crimes hit an area just west of campus, University Police doubled patrols in a matter of days and kept officers working 12 hour shifts for weeks. The change in the department began in 1988 with a University-commissioned security report outlining ways to improve the department. The report recommended numerous procedural as well as organizational changes, including adding a new administrator to relieve Director John Logan of day-to-day responsibilities and allow him to concentrate on long-range planning and policy making. Another major reason for the change was the work of Senior Vice President Marna Whittington. Whittington added the new position recommended in the report, but placed the new commissioner over Logan. Whittington also went beyond the report's recommendations, deciding to more than double the size of the police force. Further improvements for the department are still in the planning stages, the most important being a possible new police station on 40th and Walnut streets. · In 1988, the University asked two private security consultants to study the Department of Public Safety and make recommendations on ways to improve its capabilities and resources. The result was two independent reports -- the principle one by Philadelphia Police Captain Thomas Cooney and University of Washington Police Chief Michael Shanahan, and a smaller one by Ira Somerson, president of a private security consulting firm in Philadelphia -- both of which arrived at the same conclusion: a lot of work needed to be done. The reports found that Public Safety was still viewed by the University community as a separate entity. The report said there was an "us and them" mentality prevalent among students. Students and faculty did not feel that the department, as well as the administration, really were committed to doing something to improve campus security. The reports added that the department needed to improve its relationship and cooperate more with Philadelphia Police's 18th district. Furthermore, the reports said that the University's Victim Support Services needed to be broadened and that police officers themselves needed further training in victim support skills. The reports suggested several ways to improve different facets of the department, ranging from a police newsletter, to training officers in victim support skills, to improving police benefits. Additionally, the reports stressed that a task force should be formed, made up of officials from security-related departments within the University, to discuss the best ways to implement the reports' suggestions. Later that year, Senior Vice President Helen O'Bannon, among whose duties was supervising Public Safety, passed away. In December 1988, Marna Whittington was appointed to O'Bannon's post. This appointment proved to be a turning point in the status of campus security as Whittington adopted improving campus security as a major goal. Microbiology Professor Helen Davies, the former chairperson of the University Council Safety and Security Committee, said last week that many of the changes of the past three years might not have come about were it not for Whittington and her dedication to security concerns and issues. Since Whittington's appointment, the department has steadily improved its services as well as its relationship with the community by making the community aware of its programs and has started working more closely with Philadelphia Police. The department now has an officer appointed to coordinate investigations with Philadelphia Police. "Our relationship with Philadelphia is definitely much stronger than it ever was," Whittington said. "The work of the liaison officer has allowed us to dramatically increase the arrest record and to get the message out that if you commit a crime, you will be caught and prosecuted." Whittington has also tried to implement a policy of "community policing," a system based on residents of the community becoming more involved in maintaining safety and security. "I meet regularly with the University Council Safety and Security Committee, as well as with students and parents, and other administrators to help them deal with their concerns over the safety of our campus," Whittington said. But Whittington and the task force did not just follow the letter of the consultants' reports, but also molded their ideas into concrete programs tailored for the University. For example, Cooney and Shanahan's report said the department needed another supervisory position called "Chief of Operations" to relieve overburdened Director John Logan of some responsibilities. Whittington, together with the task force, decided that a commissioner was needed whose job it would be to examine long-term goals for the department, be the department's policy-maker, and act as a liaison between the administration and the department. It was to this position, that former Brown University Police Chief John Kuprevich was appointed last December. Another major change, and one which neither report suggested, is the large increase in the past three years in the number of officers in the force. Both reports specifically say that they do not recommend hiring any new officers. But Whittington said the task force decided on the level and concentration of security coverage it wanted for the campus and realized that such coverage would require more officers. "The reason for the increase in manpower is very simple," Whittington said. "We divided the area into sectors and decided that we needed 24-hour coverage in each sector and made the decision to hire as many officers as would facilitate that type of coverage." The University has gone from employing 43 officers in 1988, to 88 in 1991. In addition, in the past three years, foot patrols have been extended west to 41st Street. Three new patrol cars have been added, allowing vehicle patrols to extend to 43rd Street and bringing the total number of vehicles to five. An increase in officers has been a trend that many urban schools have undertaken in the last three years. But few have had increases as dramatic as the University's. The University of Chicago, for example, has upped its force by 35 percent. An impressive increase, but one which pales in comparison to the 104.5 percent increase at the University. Only the University of Southern California, which has been besieged by gang warfare in the area south of downtown Los Angeles, has a comparable increase, upping its force by 106 percent. · Although administrators and students seem to be in agreement that while a lot has been accomplished, most say more must be done. Upcoming plans for the department include relocation to a soon-to-be-built parking garage on the corner of 40th and Walnut streets. Not only will the new site have more space than the department's cramped Superblock office, but it may eventually accommodate a shooting range, gymnasium and holding cells. University Police officials said the station will serve as a deterrent on a corner which has become notorious for incidents of violent crime. President Sheldon Hackney said last week that while he is pleased with the improvements he sees, he is hesitant to say the problem has been solved "I would give us an 'A' for the effort we're putting into solving the problem," Hackney said. "It's too soon to see if we've turned the corner but we're seeing signs of that, like the lowering of off-campus crime. "The one thing we can completely control is our own measures to combat crime," Hackney added. "And we are making every effort to make this campus as crime-free an area as possible." Whittington also believes that today's students have different concerns than those at the University three years ago. She believes that the issue of acquaintance rape is more of a concern now than in 1988. "Acquaintance rape has become a bigger issue than it ever has been and the administration is re-evaluating our programs to help victims of acquaintance rape," Whittington said. "I think we, in 1991, are much better equipped to deal with these problems than three years ago."Comments powered by Disqus
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