Reimagining Campus Safety
Host: Hello, and welcome to today’s webinar. Reimagining Campus Safety: Evaluating Security Operations in Response to the “Defund Police” Movement. Please note that all attendees are in listen-only mode. Today’s program will be approximately 60 minutes long. Because today’s program is pre-recorded, we will not be taking live questions. However, please let us know if you need help with any technical questions or concerns. Simply enter your question or comment in the question box on the bottom of your screen and click “Submit.” Your submitted questions will be visible only to the technology team. Webinar resources are available in the resources list to the right of the presentation. And now here’s today’s moderator, Christine McHugh.
Christine McHugh: Welcome to our program. I’m Christine McHugh, Senior Risk Management Counsel at United Educators. I’m pleased to introduce our speakers, whose full bios are on the right side of your screen. First, I’d to welcome Steven Healy. Steven is the cofounder and Chief Executive Officer of Margolis Healy, and he is a nationally recognized expert on campus safety. He serves as a subject matter expert to the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, and his previous roles have included Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police at Princeton University, Chief of Police at Wellesley College and Director of Operations at the Department of Public Safety at Syracuse University. Welcome Steven, and thank you for joining us.
Steven Healy: Thank you, Christine. I’m really excited to contribute to advancing this very important conversation and look forward to the engagement.
McHugh: Thank you. I’m also happy to welcome Chief Ronnell Higgins, who is the Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety at Yale University, where he has served for over 20 years. He also holds several roles at the University of New Haven, where he is a professor, practitioner in residence and an advisor in the university’s center for advanced policing. Chief Higgins, thank you for sharing your expertise with us today.
Ronnell Higgins: Thank you so much. I’m so happy to be here and I am too looking forward to the engagement.
McHugh: I’ll start with a few housekeeping items. First, the webinar audio recording plus the PowerPoint slides, transcripts, and resources will be available on UE’s risk management website within the next two weeks. That website is www.edurisksolutions.org. Second, this webinar is prerecorded, so we will not answer live questions. But as previously mentioned, the comments are being monitored for tech support. If you experience technical issues, please reach out using the Q&A box. Finally, a reminder that this webinar is not designed to provide legal advice.
Here’s our agenda for today. we’ll start with an overview of the defund police movement. Then we’ll talk about key considerations for reimagining campus safety, and we’ll look at what this means for educational institutions. We’ll end with a Q&A session of questions that were submitted by participants when you registered. Now, I’ll turn it over to Steven to give us some background on the Defund the Police movement.
Healy: Thank you again, Christine. I think it’s really important to have this conversation about reimagining and defunding the police. Unfortunately, I believe that the Defund the Police movement and/or rallying cry around Defund the Police means so many things to so many people. I’ve found it necessary to develop a working definition for myself in the work that we’re doing with institutions around the country, around this issue. In my mind, the working definition is the redistribution of responsibilities to those who are better equipped to respond to certain situations. Sometimes that may result in a redistribution of funds as well. And we’ll talk a little bit about that later when we talk about alternative or differential response.
But this conversation is critically important. While we recognize and embrace what happened to Mr. George Floyd when he was murdered, we also have to keep in mind that this is not the start of a conversation. This isn’t the beginning. This conversation has been occurring for many, many, many years, especially in the aftermath of black and brown unarmed people being killed by the police. And so I think it’s important that we acknowledge the past, that we embrace the opportunities for change. And also I think it’s important for us to lean into our responsibilities as campus safety leaders, to help our communities understand the complexities of campus safety. Chief Higgins, I’m interested in hearing your working definition for Defund the Police.
Higgins: Steve, I would not, I wouldn’t change the way that you’ve defined the Defund the Police movement. For us it means reallocating and redirecting funding away from the campus police to other care-based university resources. For far too long, the campus police have been everything for everyone on a campus. This is a time where we need to think critically about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and who we’re doing it to. And also the decisions that we’re making and how it’s impacting our community. I wouldn’t change a thing in terms of how we’re interpreting the Defund the Police movement in higher education. But I think that much differently than municipalities, the campus sector is more equipped, better equipped, to respond to some of the cries, some of the asks for care-based resources.
Healy: I think it’s about understanding what safety means to the various members of our community. I know that we’re going to talk about that a little bit as we get further in the presentation.
McHugh: Thank you both for that background. Understanding what it means to defund, really is critical when we’re looking to make change. Can you tell us, how is this movement playing out on campuses? What are you seeing in terms of the pressures schools are facing and the actions that they are taking? Steven, could you start us off with that?
Healy: Sure. I think it’s impacting institutions in very significant ways. You need only look at the outpouring and the expressions of grief that came out shortly after Mr. Floyd was killed. I believe every institution around the country issued some type of proclamation, talking about what they intend to do around dismantling systemic racism in their own campus communities. Remember: This isn’t necessarily all about the campus safety or university police department. This is more about campus safety, writ large. Oftentimes we talk about the ecosystem, how all the various parts and pieces fit together in an institution. And so what we’re doing is, we’re calling for a reexamination of all campus safety and security practices and approaches, not just those that reside or are the primary responsibility of a university police department or university campus safety department.
The one example that I think about all the time is the issue of having police officers respond to situations where there is someone experiencing a mental health crisis. Is that the right response? In some cases, it may, those situations may, necessitate a police response. In other situations, those instances or those situations can be handled by other folks. I know we’ve done a lot in campus safety and in policing over the past 10 years around equipping our officers with the skills to be more efficient and effective when they respond to those situations. The fundamental question is, are they the right resource in the first place anyway? And I believe that as we think about how this applies to colleges and universities, we have to step out of our comfort zones and really think about what safety means.
And when you listen to our students, when you listen to other campus members, when you listen to community members around the campus, you will hear very different notions of what safety means. I believe we have an obligation to listen to those opinions and those perspectives, and then reach consensus, a community-based consensus, on what the role and mission of the university of police or the campus safety department is.
Chief Higgins, I know that you have been involved in this conversation, in this reimagining for a very long time. Can you talk a little bit about how this is impacting your operations at Yale?
Higgins: Absolutely, Steven. I want to tell a story. Prior to us coming to the realization that we needed to reimagine policing, reimagine public safety, for the longest time in higher education, public safety, especially those of us that are involved in campus police, we’ve had to legitimize ourselves. What do I mean by that? When students come to campus, oftentimes they will think of the campus police as campus cops with no real authority. We’ve often had to explain to new students and others that we are the police just like the police anywhere else where you’re from. Until one day, I can remember, sharing that sentiment, describing the Yale police, and a student raised his hand during the question-and-answer period and said, “Well, Chief, you said you’re the police like any other police where we may be from. I’m from Baltimore.” And this was right after the Freddie Gray incident. Another student raised his hand and said, “Yeah, we’re from New York, and we lived in a neighborhood where there was disproportionate, a high incidence of police contact. I’ve been stopped numerous times by the police.” Frankly, we were caught flatfooted. We didn’t know how to respond to that.
The idea of the police, meaning all things for everyone is no longer, we have to reimagine the police. The other thing is, reimagining what safety is, evaluating safety is and what it means to our particular campus and what it means to our community. The idea of increased police presence, more uniforms, more armed police officers, doesn’t make everyone feel safe. Now there are many voices and some may say, well, they make me feel safe, but in a campus environment, we have to be mindful of the experiences that others bring with them to the campus and how our very existence may impact their ability to thrive on our campus.
I want to touch on something else that Steven mentioned. He mentioned the mental health aspect. That is a major, major issue I’m finding in talking to colleagues across the country, because again, the police department, being everything for everyone for so many years, we are often on the front lines of responding to students that are in distress. We need to think long and hard about what we can do in the short term and in the long term to be responsive to students who are in distress – understanding that in some municipalities, they are actually reaching out to community resources. Well, I haven’t spoken to one campus public safety leader that has a community resource responding to students on campus. We have to have some conversations within our own institutions about what field health services looks like going forward.
Healy: Chief as we kind of move away, I’d love to get your reaction to this [other issue we are facing on] campus, Chief, and how hard we try to ensure that people understood that we were “Just like the regular police.” And now we’re spending all of our energy saying, “Oh no, we’re actually not just the other police, because we aren’t killing unarmed black people on our campuses every day.” Although there have been instances of that. Chief, I’d love to get your thoughts on, how do we respond internally to our own officers who are saying, “But they are casting a shadow on us that we have not earned, because we don’t do those things.” How do you advance the conversation with your own officers around this issue?
Higgins: I think there’s a couple of things that need to happen, that should happen, that are happening in some organizations, especially our own. First and foremost, there needs to be an acknowledgement that there has been some policing that has been done that we have all seen, that is bad. We have to acknowledge that it has impacted black and brown communities. We have to acknowledge that whether the police officer in Minnesota or LA, in New York, it doesn’t matter if they’re a campus police officer or if it happened thousands of miles away, it impacts us. I think the first step is acknowledging this.
The second step is acknowledging why we exist. I’ve been using the term “We need to go back to our roots.” Steven, we’ve had conversations about this. We have worked so hard to identify with and to keep up with our municipal counterparts, that in some instances, some of us have really lost sight of the uniqueness of our campus safety organizations in how we can be and should be different and how we can be and should be designed to service our communities, as opposed to being a best practice in a large city. There is an opportunity for police chiefs, higher education safety leaders who are progressive thinkers, right now to do some of the things that we talk about at conferences, to ask for the funding, to do certain things and at the same time shed some responsibilities that we ourselves know, we probably shouldn’t have in the first place, like having an armed police officer responding to a lockout.
Healy: It sounds to me chief, you’re saying that that isn’t even fiscally responsible. And we’ll talk a little bit more about that. I really appreciate your insight on that issue.
McHugh: These issues surrounding safety and police, as you all have said, are just so complex. I know they can feel very overwhelming. But you both have spent a lot of time, as we’ve heard, analyzing the recommendations for institutions and looking at possible action steps. In this next section, let’s take a look at some of those specific ideas. One of the ideas often mentioned is community policing. Chief Higgins, you talked about meeting with students and really getting out into the campus community. Can you tell us what community policing means and how schools can best engage their campus community?
Higgins: Sure. For a long time, those of us who have been students of community policing have understood community policing to mean, the police department working with our communities to be proactive in solving problems and engaging our communities. I think where we are right now, we have to acknowledge that community policing, albeit effective, isn’t a panacea. I think we’re beyond community policing. I think we’re at a point where we really need to do some things internally to bring about a sense of community wellness. I think we need to continue to advance some of the things that worked in community policing. I think we need to continue to identify opportunities to liaise with different campus groups, or other groups off campus.
But at the same time meeting students doesn’t just mean coffee with a cop. It doesn’t mean pizza with the chief. This is about meeting students where they are, and listening and hearing their concerns, listening not to respond, but listening to hear. Some of what we talked about earlier is not so much we’re here to keep you safe on campus, but students want to know how they can be safe from the police. We’ve had students say to us, “Chief, how do we protect ourselves from you?” Now, even though my response internally was, “We would never hurt you,” the reality is students have concerns. Some students have concerns. I think it’s important that we reach out and meet with and be proactive in talking to some of our students of color. I think we need to be upfront and honest about what we’re seeing out in the news and on social media.
I think we need to be upfront and responsive and transparent, whenever something happens on our campus. That is how we build and maintain trust. For far too often, we’ve taken the position that we’re only going to provide information that we’re legally bound to provide, and that works up to a certain point. I think we’re at a point now where we as campus leaders need to begin to push our leadership, push our institutions to move beyond what we should, but what is necessary to share with our communities to maintain our trust.
Healy: Chief, I really appreciate how you talk about meeting students where they are. I think, unfortunately, community policing has become all things to all people, which in my mind means it has become nothing. When I go to campuses around the country and we talk about, “So how do you engage with your campus community?” I can tell you 100% of my colleagues say, “We believe in a philosophy of community policing.” And then when we start to look under the hood, we don’t see a lot of substance there. I think that that’s part of a problem with community policing writ large. The recent 21 CP solutions report on Harvard, talked about community policing has become so watered down that it basically is nothing.
I understand and appreciate your comment that you embrace those ideas that worked, right? Community problem solving, flattening the organization so that officers feel empowered to take on and to try to solve certain problems. But I do think that we are having a bit of an identity crisis around, “What do we mean when we say community policing?” I, like you often talk about the co-production of campus safety. To me, that is really the fundamental tenet, along with all of the other tenets of 21st century policing that were spelled out in the final report on 21st century policing from the Obama administration. I think that as long as we are embracing those ideas, but not just from a philosophical standpoint, we have to embrace them and turn them into action.
I’m interested as we go along to talk about how, or to hear your take on how, some of those initiatives are unfolding both on your campus and at other campuses. Chief, you just raised the issue of trust and legitimacy. I’m really interested to hear more about those ideals. I also know that oftentimes we shudder when we think about the notion of external oversight or civilian oversight. I know back when I was a practitioner, I resisted efforts to change the Public Safety Advisory Committee to anything other than an advisory committee, because I wanted to be clear. I wanted it to be clear that you are advising us. I think that the current movement is away from that notion, that we trying to make these boards more independent from the department.
It’s interesting to me that we get resistance from that. Because when you go back and you look at the fundamentals, even if you go back to Sir Robert Peel, and the notion that, we only exist and operate with the permission and approval of the community. I think that we are moving and there obviously are models around the country being adopted that move more toward an oversight. I know that you’re doing something in that area as well. In addition to the oversight, what about other systems of accountability that activists are demanding? Tell me how you build and how you ensure accountability in your operations.
Higgins: Sure, Steven. When I think about accountability, I think about it both internally and externally. In terms of internal accountability, it has been our experience, been my experience, that sometimes we’re comforted by the fact that we have policies and standards that are up to date. They meet national standards. But oftentimes we fail when it comes to ensuring that our practices are in alignment with our policies. We fail in actually demonstrating some sort of accountability when we find out there’s these failures. The reality is, oftentimes after something major happens we can point back to a systemic failure along the line, which, if addressed earlier on, could have prevented the department and the institution from being on the front page of the newspaper, whether it be campus, local, or, in some cases, CNN.
Everyone has to do their job at their level. And that includes the chief. The primary responsibility of the chief down to the sergeant needs to be for the professional development of their subordinates, and to ensure that everyone understands the policies, but they are also empowered to enforce policy. The other thing that I believe is important now, let’s talk about external accountability. The other thing that’s important, and I, with you Steven, over the years, when we heard the idea of police advisory boards and things like that, seven or eight years ago, we said, “Well, we’ll do it if we have to.” Let’s be honest here, but the reality is now they are becoming more and more commonplace. That’s what leaning in is all about. Understanding as you described from whence we come. “The police are the public and the public are the police.” That’s what Sir Robert Peel said.
The idea of having two accountability boards. We have the Advisory Committee on Community Policing, which is made up of stakeholders, faculty, staff, students, and local community members who have a voice in policy development, who share concerns about trends and who also opine on systems for promotion. This is one committee that we have in place. The other committee, which has become even more popular than the other, is the Police Advisory Board. The Police Advisory Board hears or is able to accept a complaint about a police officer directly. Now, one would say, “Well, why does the community not want to complain to the police department?” Well, some question the police’s ability to police the police.
And so they want to be assured that if in fact they have something to share, that it’s not going to go to the department or to the chief, they want to report to a university administrator or a committee that will assess the complaint. We have that set up right now. We have found that community members are appreciative of the different pathways and avenues to complain, to make a complaint. Now, the reality is that the complaints are very, very, very low, but just having that, shows that the chief and the university are willing to be progressive in hearing concerns about accountability. Another thing that some of us, we’re not going to be able to get away from, is being accountable to civilian review boards that are set up by our host city.
We are a private police department, but we perform a public function, and there has been recent city ordinance that’s been written with us in it, exclusively. We’re going to have to work through all the nuances as to how that’s going to come to fruition, but it’s here. Again, trying to put it off is not going to work. I think we need to lean in, I think we need to embrace accountability, because frankly for an organization like my own and like many others who I’m familiar with and their chiefs, we do a wonderful job, and most don’t know that. Well, this is a way, and this is what I’ve been communicating internally within our organization. This is a way of showing just how professional we are.
Healy: Chief, you may have heard me chuckle a bit when you mentioned CNN, because clearly you’ve had your time in front of the camera and on the cover of newspapers, which is why this is so good to have you involved in this conversation. I think what I heard you say, you started describing what you’re doing at Yale. What I heard you saying, is that, this issue of oversight or external review is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. It is a very local kind of consideration and what works for an institution may not necessarily work for another institution. I want you to talk a little bit about that. But the other notion, the other idea that you highlighted is, this sense of creating multiple pathways for folks to provide feedback, positive or negative to the campus safety operation or regarding the campus safety program.
I think that that parallels what we’ve done around creating opportunities for individuals to report their concerns or their complaints or their allegations of sexual and gender violence. When we first started reimagining how we respond to sexual and gender violence, what we did was we opened it up. We wanted to ensure that a victim, a complainant, and a survivor had the opportunity to express or to share their experiences in multiple different ways. I think that’s what I hear you talking about what you’ve done at Yale. Talk about other systems that you’ve seen around the country. I know the University of California system, UCOP, has mandated that each institution have their own review body. It can be obviously locally constructed, but it has imperatives that have come from the system. What else are you seeing around the country?
Higgins: Steven, I’ll tell you, I am really fond of what I am seeing that’s being done in the Cambridge (Massachusetts) Police Department. I believe [it] was the first department in the United States to create an Office of Procedural Justice. Now, let’s think about how that could be applied on a campus. Let’s talk about security officers, unarmed security personnel on our campuses. It’s not so much that they used force. It’s not so much that they said something incorrect to someone, but it’s the manner in which the policy and the practice is applied to the individual. Oftentimes we receive complaints and emails about the way something happened. And what do we say? We’ll review the incident. We’ll talk to the officer. Well, similar to the way community members not wanting to have that discussion with us, they want to be able to go somewhere, who can take into account all of the dynamics, and come to some conclusions about whether or not that community member was treated procedurally just, whether or not the policy was appropriately applied, and whether or not the policy was just and fair in the first place. That is something that I am researching. That’s something I believe is really, really unique. Fortunately, on our campus, we have one of the country’s experts on procedural justice in the Yale Law School, Professor Tracey Meares, who’s really big into this.
Our hope is to be a model for higher education if, in fact, we’re able to begin such an office. It really mirrors, Steven, what you were talking about in terms of how we approached sexual assault and harassment on our campus several years ago. It was a multi-pronged approach, but it was also a highly collaborative process with a number of different offices being a part of it. I think that if we’re going to address some of the issues on our campus with regard to race, we need to have several voices at the table, and we need to systematize how we’re looking at many of these issues.
Healy: That’s very insightful. I think often about procedural justice, and I’m a big fan of Professor Meares. Please let her know I say hi.
Healy: For those of you who are participating in the conversation, you need to consume everything that she’s written about procedural justice, really, because that is the next wave. This is where we’re going in terms of procedural justice.
I don’t profess to know anything about what happened at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. And so I’m only sharing this because I thought about the issue of procedural justice when I read about, I guess, an officer, a captain, and the chief, were all dismissed. And when I listened to the complaints of the mother of the young man who was stopped, who was involved in a traffic stop, when she explained how he was treated, because she saw the body cam, and how she was treated, all I could think about was, “This is a procedural justice issue. How do we treat people, not necessarily focusing so much on the outcomes, but how did we treat people and how did people feel when they walked away from the interaction?”
That is so important, because when you really look at complaint data, at least from my experience in campus police departments, the university police departments, most of the complaints are complaints about the way you talk to me. Well, the person was rude, the person was distracted, the person didn’t explain, right? This notion of procedural justice, I really think it has a lot of promise for us. I’m interested to follow what you’ll be doing at Yale, as you further implement this initiative.
McHugh: Let’s move into talking about the differential response strategy. You’ve both mentioned frequently, how many tasks and calls that are really non-law enforcement issues, that fall on the police departments on our campuses and the importance of starting to move those responsibilities away from campus safety. Steven, could you tell us a little bit about what a differential response strategy is?
Healy: Sure. We’ve already surfaced this notion of mission creep, as if we need to surface that, every university or college campus safety director knows what this is all about, right? When you have sworn police officers delivering hangers to the inn, just because they happen to be on duty, clearly that’s mission creep. When you’re asking sworn police officers to change batteries in fire detectors or smoke detectors, clearly, I think we have a little bit of mission creep. When we’re asking our sworn police officers to leave campus, to drive students to their doctor’s appointments or to the BART station, or to some other transportation hub, clearly we’re experiencing mission creep. This isn’t something that we need to explain to the practitioners. We know that this has evolved organically and very often, other than complaining internally about why are we doing this, we haven’t really engaged university campus leaders around this question.
I really think that this is the backbone of the whole issue around defunding. What are we asking our police to do or our campus safety officers to do? Is it appropriate for them, right? You can’t be all things to all people because every time you do that, you wind up being nothing for anyone. And so I think we really have to peel back the onion on this issue, because we all know, this is intuitive. And this is not just campus safety. This is municipal policing as well, 70% to 80% of the things that people call us for have nothing to do with the police. And so if those 70% to 80% of those things have nothing to do with the police, then how do we respond to that?
How do we develop a differential or alternative response strategy so that we’re sending the right people to the right goals? I want to caution folks, that this is not a one-to-one exercise. This isn’t a situation where we analyze your call for service data, and we see the 70% of the calls are not police calls, or may not require a sworn officer or an armed officer, or even a campus safety officer at all. That doesn’t mean that we then look at our force and say, OK, 70% of our force is gone. I think that’s what makes people really nervous. But that is not what we are suggesting here. Right? We are suggesting looking at the request and the expectations for services, analyzing them to figure out what is the right resource for the right problem. Ronnell, I know that you are living this right now. Talk to us about how you’re going about developing your differential response strategy.
Higgins: Sure. Steven, this, I agree that a differential response, both in higher education, public safety, and municipal policing, truly is the backbone. I want to share some information about how we are approaching it here at Yale. First and foremost, it begins with a review of the data, and much like Steven said, a high number of our calls had nothing to do with the police, wasn’t a police issue. A deeper dive showed that a high number of the calls had to do with student housing, things that people were calling us about in the residential colleges. That’s where we began. How can we reduce police officer/student contact inside residential housing? How can we, or who should be, the responders for a noise complaint, for a nuisance complaint about the smell of someone cooking or someone smoking, or even a non-police-related medical complaint? Should we be sending the police into our student housing for those matters?
The answer is no. What we’re doing is, we’ve worked long and hard to professionalize our security officers. We’re looking at them to step in and do more, and it’s working out quite well. Another thing to keep in mind, though, when considering differential response, is oftentimes, and I’m hearing this from colleagues, that they want to push this responsibility off to Student Affairs or the housing office or someone else. They may not be equipped. They may not have the infrastructure in place or the people to do these functions. I think it’s incumbent upon campus safety leaders to think long and hard about how they can reinvent themselves and demonstrate how they can be responsive during this historic time of change, by identifying different levels within their organizations that are suited to respond to these calls that have nothing to do with policing at all.
Oftentimes we hear about disproportionate police contact, there’s studies on it. We have to realize that our students that are coming to our campuses, they’ve read, they’ve heard of, or seen on social media instances where there’s been a high amount of police contact and they don’t want that. They want the police when they want the police, but they don’t want armed police officers traipsing through their dormitory to do things that have nothing to do with the police. It’s not easy to do, because ultimately what we’re doing is, we’re undoing a practice that’s been in existence before both Steven and I got into the business. It’s a culture change, and it’s a shock. But I do think that we are on the right road. But to your point, Steven, it’s not a one-to-one. Every campus is different, and we must reserve the right to get better. We’re not going to get it right the first time, but we reserve the right to get better as we go along.
Healy: I appreciate that. For those of you who haven’t seen the statement that was issued by the President of the University of Oregon, where he talked about this issue, he talked about the differential response. He talked about doing the analysis, the call for service analysis, looking at what are we cutting from our force. Again, a public statement. We are not getting rid of our police. However, we are leaning into this conversation and we understand that there are some opportunities for us to rethink how we’re responding. Ronnell, I’ve been a fan of a hybrid campus safety force, forever.
It just makes sense that you recognize that you have different levels of calls that require different levels of responses. While institutions are in the middle of thinking about how they develop or build the infrastructure to support a differential response model, including mental health professionals who are responding to the many, many calls that deal with student wellness or maybe individuals who are in the midst of a mental health crisis, right? As institutions are considering that, we do need to have that alternative resource to respond to those other calls. One point that I think that folks need to focus on, is the dispatch function. I think for so long, we have underappreciated and under resourced the dispatch operation.
We put all these responsibilities. You’ve got to monitor the access control system. You’ve got to monitor the fire alarm system. You’ve got to monitor life safety systems and you’ve got to monitor your radio and the radio of the local police, and you’ve got to monitor all of these different systems and you have to take calls and dispatch officers. When you develop a differential response strategy, that tenfold complicates the work that our dispatchers are doing. I think it’s time that we stop and think about how we are resourcing the dispatch operation. This is not, just, any officer can go in there and take calls for a couple of hours while the dispatcher is on break. That just does not hold it, because this is a highly complex operation when you’re talking about receiving a call, listening to what the person is saying, listening to what the person is asking for, and then identifying the right resource to go, to deal with that issue.
I just think it is really important that we think about the role of dispatchers, and then every demand letter that I’ve seen; I’ve seen hundreds of them from around the country on defunding; all of them highlight the issue that mental health response has to be a first priority. Ronnell, you talked about the lockout thing and how that’s working. That’s important. But the one that is most critical in my mind is, how do we respond to mental health situations? Is that going to be community resources? Is it going to be an internal resource? Is it going to be CIT-trained officers (that’s crisis intervention training officers)? Is it going to be a model like they’re using in Portland, where they have teamed a mental health professional with a trained officer?
It’s a local issue, but trust me, it’s an issue that we absolutely must address, because when you look at the use-of-force issues and use-of-force incidents around the country, police use-of-force incidents, you see that force is often used in situations when we are addressing mental health issues and those issues exist on our campuses. They exist in the communities around our campuses, and it is a critical, critical life-and-death situation that we have to address.
McHugh: Thank you both for walking us through that. It really is clear that a thoughtful differential response really is the answer to letting police do their job, but also getting the right response for callers and their specific needs. Thank you for taking us through all the details. Let’s talk about the impact of transparency. Many schools are being pushed to enhance transparency with respect to police policies, data, general operations. Steven, can you talk a little bit about that?
Healy: Sure, Christine. The first point I want to make is, when we talk about transparency, let’s not focus just on the campus safety operation. We need to be, institutions need to be, more transparent about all types of things. Again, I talk about this ecosystem. There are lots of parts and pieces of the campus ecosystem that are not the responsibility of the campus safety or the police department. When we talk about transparency, we’re not just talking about the police department. Having said that, I am a big fan of the notion of what gets measured is what matters. And so what we are often advising institutions that we have the honor to work with is, to identify those metrics, right? We’re talking about literally pulling back the curtain and letting people see what we do. Every single campus that we work with, students say the same thing: “I want more information. I don’t know what their training is. I don’t know who they’re hiring. I want this information.”
And so we’re talking about pulling back the curtain, and collecting and reporting critical data, not just use-of-force complaints, stop data, arrest data, but all of the information, all of the metrics that we are involved in, how we train, how we select folks, how we promote folks. This is really an opportunity to pull the curtain back on everything that we’re doing and consider what information and listen to the community when they tell you what information is important to them.
McHugh: A lot of our members are focusing on improving training on campus, both in terms of officer job training and officer well-being, but also training for broader campus community. Chief Higgins, can you talk about your thoughts on what training changes can be made on campuses?
Higgins: Absolutely. First, I just want to say that the term co-production was used earlier in our discussion. I think there’s an opportunity for campus police to invite their community in, to do some training together. We did it a year and a half ago, and it went fabulously. It gives an opportunity to do just that, pull back the curtain, OK. I think officers’ safety and wellness needs to be a focus area right now for all of us in policing. I think we also need to be laser focused on fair and impartial policing to help members recognize implicit bias. We need to train regularly on use of force and de-escalation. You heard Steven mention earlier crisis intervention. I’m a firm believer that every sworn member of a police department should be trained in crisis and prevention.
We need to also train officers in trauma-informed policing, understanding that there’s a lot of vicarious trauma [that] members of our communities, both campus and otherwise, that are experiencing. We also need to train our officers on the campus resources that they can call on or direct our community members to as well. We do all this training on what they can do in the police world. But what about the existing resources on our own campuses? I think we need to do a better job at training our officers on that. And it’s also an opportunity to invite these resources, to teach our officers, to train and spend time with them. But at the end of the day, budgets must support these training initiatives. We need, as campus leaders, to to talk to our institutional leadership about what we need in order [to ensure] our officers are appropriately trained.
McHugh: Thank you, chief. Let’s move now into our Q&A section. I’d like to say a special thank you to all the participants who submitted their questions in advance for this. Chief Higgins, maybe you can take this one. In light of the defund movement, what changes are institutions making to their MOUs and other engagements with local police departments?
Higgins: Gosh, I’ve heard and read about some institutions that have canceled their MOUs or their contracts with municipal police. I have also heard and talked to some chiefs that are very thoughtfully reexamining their current MOUs with the city, and their institution. I’m in the camp that, while we’re reimagining public safety, we should be very thoughtfully reexamining our existing MOUs, because it’s an opportunity for us to show that we are accountable and we’re going to be responsive. It also gives us an opportunity to ask a question to ourselves internally. Are we holding ourselves accountable? And to say, what more can we do to keep the community’s trust?
I think that for some that have older MOUs, I think this is the opportune time to pull it out and start taking a look at it, to make some decisions on whether or not it’s a contemporary document. And for others who have processes in place, to review it annually or biannually. I think that that’s a good thing. MOUs are clearly a part of this discussion right now.
McHugh: Steven, I’ll direct this one to you. We had a few questions about misconduct complaints against campus safety officers. You and Chief Higgins, both touched on the idea of oversight boards handling some of those complaints. Are there other practices or systems that you recommend institutions think about?
Healy: Sure, Christine. Just for a second, I just want to say something related to the MOUs that Ronnell just covered. I just want to caution people not to knee jerk. Right? We saw a lot of institutions “divesting.” I think that that is not the best approach to take. I think we really need to step back a bit and think about and recognize that we don’t exist on an Island and we require support from municipal services. I just wanted to add that.
With respect to misconduct, we talked about that a bit. First and foremost, making sure that complainants have multiple ways to report misconduct. Oftentimes when we go in institutions and we look at misconduct complaints and we see there are no misconduct complaints, or there’s one or two, very few misconduct complaints.
On the surface one might say, “That’s a good thing that we don’t have. Our officers are performing at the levels that we expect them.” When we talk to students and other campus members, what they’ll say is, “We have lots of complaints, but we don’t trust the police. We don’t trust campus safety, so we’re not going to go to them.” It is again about pulling the curtain back, creating multiple methods for people to report, and then making sure that we are collecting and reporting the critical data around complaints, so that people know, so they don’t have to ask us, that they can go to this dashboard on our website and clearly see how we address it. That means training folks to investigate and having the processes and the policies in place to ensure that we’re being responsive to community demands.
McHugh: And for our last Q&A, we’ve grouped a few policy questions together. Schools asked, “What changes should we be making to our policies?” They also wanted to know from both of you, “What are your thoughts on policies regarding use of force, body cameras, and firearms on campus as well?” Steven, could you start us off here?
Healy: Sure. I also recognize that we don’t have a lot of time, this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. I could talk about this for hours. Obviously, I can’t do that. You need to look at your policies. I think that the various accreditation processes, you have CALEA, you have IACLEA, and then you have many state systems that have accrediting bodies. I think minimally, you need to make sure that your policies meet the standards that are outlined. Many of those accrediting bodies have reimagined their requirements for policies during this time over the last year or so. And so it’s important that you look at that. I think that there are other documents that you can look at as well in terms of making sure that you’re pulling in the most recent evolving standards.
There’s the IECP policy, which is a policy that was developed by many of the major law enforcement agencies, law enforcement associations around the country, the consensus policy, there’s the 8 Can’t Wait mandate. I think that we need to look at it. There are these kinds of 11, 12, 13 critical policies, which I believe are the policies that you really ought to focus on first. That includes your use of force, that includes your complaint procedures, and those kinds of things. I actually want to turn it over to Ronnell to talk about specifically firearms on campus, body-worn cameras. I talked about use of force. Again, you need to include your campus in these conversations.
You can’t do this alone and say, “Here’s a policy.” That’s not going to work in 21st-century policing. That’s not the way we want to approach. But Ronnell, what are your thoughts around arming officers, not arming officers, body-worn cameras, and some of those other matters?
People want to see the video. They want to see the body-worn camera video. I think institutions need to think long and hard about what their institutional policy will be regarding the release of that video, because once you tell a community, “We’re contemporary, we’re forward thinking, we have body cameras,” the next question is going to be, “Well, when can we see the video?” Many aren’t going to understand the, why the university, why the institution, doesn’t want to release that footage. Each institution is different, and each situation is different. I just believe that the conversations need to be had now before there’s a crisis, because the community has an expectation that if you’re going to put the body cameras on officers, that at some point in time, they’re going to be able to see what’s happening and how it happened.
McHugh: Thank you both for tackling that huge question with the small amount of time we have remaining. On behalf of UE and all our participants today, I really want to extend a huge thank you to both of you for the insight you’ve shared today. Steven, you mentioned this is a topic that we could discuss for hours and that certainly is true, but you both have given us a really good overview, I think, of some action steps for how colleges and universities can get started in this process. As we’re wrapping up, I want to invite each of you to share some closing thoughts with the group. Steven, do you want to go first?
Healy: Sure. Thank you, Christine. And thank you to the participants for being here today. This has been a great opportunity to at least surface some of these issues. We’re not going to solve any problems in 60 minutes, but at least we can raise them and hopefully add value to the work that is happening out in the community. If someone asked me, “What are the three most important things around this issue?” What would I say? I would say, “Number one, transparency, pulling back the curtain, let the community know, include the community, let them know what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and what the outcomes are.” That means you need to identify those metrics, report them out and be as transparent as you possibly can be. Not as transparent as you want to be, or as transparent as the law may require you to be, but as transparent as the community expects you to be.
The second thing I would say is, “Work with your campus partners.” Your campus partners are fundamental, right? If you have a good relationship with your student affairs colleagues, the tenor of that relationship also impacts the tenor of your relationship with students.
And then finally, what we talked about: “Policies, especially the high-liability policies, look at those policies.” I know I went over a little bit, Christine, so sorry about that. I apologize.
McHugh: No need to apologize. It is all so important. Every bit of that. Thank you. Chief Higgins, what about you? Do you have some closing thoughts for us?
Higgins: Absolutely. Steven stole all of my thunder, but here’s what I will say. For those that are in institutional leadership roles, I would caution that the core competencies of a police leader five years ago aren’t necessarily the core competencies of a campus police leader today. Those who are going to be making hiring and promotional decisions during this time of historic change, I would just advise that they think really hard about who it is that they’re putting into that leadership role, especially as we work to reimagine public safety. I also think leaders need to pay attention to what’s happening around the country, on other campuses. I think there’s more a heightened sense of awareness now, more so than ever when it comes to policing. But I think some organizations are getting it right or on the road to.
I think that benchmarking with those institutions is a really good thing. Lastly, I would just advise that, pay attention to your officers and your departments. Some of them are feeling beleaguered and there’s still much going on in this country right now. Pay attention to what’s going on with your officers and inside your police department, get a sense of what the tone, what the tenor and what the pulse is on that organization. I’m happy to be a part of this webinar today. Thank you.
McHugh: That’s so important too. Thank you very much, Chief. That brings us to end of our program. Thank you again to our speakers, Steven Healy and Chief Ronnell Higgins, for your very valuable insights. A reminder to all our listeners that the audio recording resources and slide deck will be posted soon on EduRisk Solutions. The resources include a copy of the Margolis Healy white paper on considerations for reimagining safety, security, and law enforcement in educational settings. UE also has a guide due out next week, a Guide to Developing an Anti-Racist Campus Security Force. We’ll add that to the webinar landing page once it’s available. Thank you all for joining us today. You may now disconnect.