Section: News

External report recommends improvements for Safety

“Task Safety officers to build rapport with student groups.” “Buy another patrol car.” “Increase Safety’s budget by a quarter-million dollars.”

These are but a few of the 136 recommendations an outside evaluation, released last November, suggested could help improve the Office of Campus Safety in areas ranging from training to emergency planning to compliance with federal disclosure laws.

“I think, as a department, we’re meeting the expectations of the institution and of the community,” Bob Hooper, director of Campus Safety, said of the report. “But clearly we have a lot of work to do.”

The assessors responsible for the report visited campus multiple times in September of last year and interviewed dozens of officers, campus leaders and community members. The 162-page department review, prepared by public safety officials from Queens University of Charlotte and St. Olaf College, portrays a department in-touch with the community it serves, but in need of more funding, training and formalized policies and procedures.

“This is not something that, by spring break, it’s all going to be done and we’re all going to move on,” Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman, who oversees Safety, said. “This is going to be a long-term plan [for] how to improve the department.”

Kenyon had asked evaluators to review its compliance with the Clery Act, a law that requires colleges to disclose campus crime statistics in an Annual Security Report (ASR) and its Fire and Life Safety Report.

“Clery Act compliance is institutional in scope and should not be limited to a single department,” the report said. “Many staff members we spoke with were concerned about Kenyon’s ability to fully comply with the ASR requirements.”

The report found that Miracle Mahle, Safety’s administrative assistant, “had some Clery training but not sufficient for her responsibilities,” and that Hooper “has not received the amount of training necessary for someone who is playing such a critical role in Clery compliance.” The evaluators who compiled the report recommended Kenyon provide compliance training for Mahle and Hooper and suggested the College have outside auditors conduct a more thorough review of the College’s Clery compliance.

The report acknowledged the subsequent update of statistics for 2013 after Kenyon, when releasing its Clery statistics this past October, did not include data as required by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. It cited this example and the possible misclassification of weapons reports in 2012 as examples of where the College could improve its compliance with Clery.

The evaluators also recommended that the College increase Safety’s budget for training opportunities to “establish and maintain a professional, well-educated Campus Safety department.”

“During our interviews, the Review Team was told the budget for Campus Safety has not increased in six (6) years but the responsibilities, requests for services and special event requirements have significantly increased,” the report read. The evaluators estimated Safety’s budget at just under $980,000. With an annual operating budget of about $125 million, the report recommended that Kenyon increase Safety’s budget to one percent of the College’s budget, or to $1.25 million. When asked if Safety’s budget would increase next year, Kohlman said he couldn’t say at this point.

“There’s a lot of recommendations,” Kohlman said. “We’re just now figuring out how we’re going to go about deciding which things we’re going to really focus on and when.” Over winter break, every member of the Safety department was tasked with prioritizing the recommendations, and all but two did so, according to Kohlman.

Among many other recommendations, the report said Safety should add security cameras to more locations around campus, increase its staff diversity, acquire software specifically designed for dispatch and communication and create a new position of transportation and card access coordinator.

The report also made mention of a Collegian article published last September — “At Safety office, a growing discontent” — which reported on how some officers claimed to have been discriminated against and felt the department was riddled with favoritism. “Although not part of the review process, the Review Team felt compelled to address the article to determine if there was any credibility to the accusations,” said the report, which concluded by calling the article “vague with little if any credible information.” (The Collegian stands by its story.)

Kohlman said an outside evaluation of Safety had never been done before, and that along with regulatory changes, specifically with regard to Title IX — the federal law that bans gender discrimination in educational settings — and the expansion of the campus K-Card access system, the College decided it was time for an evaluation. Kohlman said the review cost just over $10,000, which, he said, is typical for this type of consulting.

Hooper noted that the report said Safety was “well-received with the students, faculty, staff, the College,” and had a strong relationship with local law enforcement and emergency personnel.

“We’ll continue to build on those and work through this review and become a better, more-prepared department,” Hooper said.

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