Over the last two weeks PSU-AAUP participated in the interviews of 3 potential candidates for the position of Chief of Police. We definitely had a perspective and a set of questions from issues faculty members have faced. In the last 5 years we have observed:
- Inappropriate officer interrogation based on racial profiling
- delays after urgent requests for intervention in classrooms with disruptive students
- faculty members from a couple of units organized and rallied against the establishment of a armed police department
- student groups who rallied strongly against the arming of the police department, and some who continue to do so
- a promise for community policing and a commitment to establishing relationships with stakeholders, but the community still is not sure what that means
- the police department is constrained by funding, and we do not know how that will impact their ability to keep the promises made in the implementation plan. Already we are seeing they are not hiring as promised in that plan (we have nine sworn officers and the plan calls for twelve by now) and we are hearing that officers are dealing with mandatory overtime.
- relations between police department employees and the former Chief of Police were contentious; there is a lot of healing that has to come from this new Chief of Police
- there has been no intent to drill the campus for lockdowns, or an active shooter scenario as is being done on campuses across the country. Fears around a potential active shooter at PSU leave many faculty members feeling vulnerable.
So we had specific questions for the candidates, and while they were all aware of the issues, there were big differences between how they would approach the position. We see this as a key hire at a pivotal time as the police department continues emerging into the campus community.
Coming out of the interviews, a criteria I did not think would be I would feel strongly about, but now do, is the previous experience in law enforcement leadership in higher education.
We provided our comments to Kevin Reynolds and now pray the right candidate is hired. We walked away with ideas for a number of ways PSU-AAUP can partner with the new Chief of Police to make the working environment more secure, and more prepared, for faculty members. We look forward to getting started on these initiatives.