When Thomas Seamon came to Penn five years ago to run the Division of Public Safety, he found a department devoid of effective leadership. The offices now under his charge were strewn all across the University. There was no overall vision for making Penn a safer place in which to live and learn. And the police department barely had the manpower to prevent crime -- let alone investigate it. As he resigns to take the reins of a private security firm, Seamon deserves recognition for his accomplishments -- creating a clear vision for his department, putting all major Public Safety offices under one roof, better integrating Penn's security efforts with those of the city and making the University Police into a larger and more effective unit. The lower incidence of crime on campus speaks volumes as to his success. But to maintain this momentum, it is important that the University appoint Seamon's successor -- someone with big-city experience and the sensitivity to deal with students and faculty -- as soon as possible. Delay risks the kind of institutional atrophy that afflicted Public Safety's Special Services unit in its year without a director. Public Safety's next director also has to confront the weaknesses of Seamon's department. Seamon personally drew fire for Public Safety's seeming reluctance to address issues of violence against women, including the long delay in appointing a new director of Special Services, the unit in charge of victim's services. The department must also work harder to communicate better with the student body in times of crisis, and its ill-advised effort to try to stop students from tearing down the goal post after the football team's Ivy title the same year could have had tragic consequences. Given its urban location, it is imperative that Penn have a strong, effective and innovative Public Safety unit. Thomas Seamon met that ambitious goal during his tenure at Penn, but looking to the future, the University cannot rest on his laurels.Comments powered by Disqus
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