Updates on Office of Public Safety Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

By David Maley, September 9, 2016

Updates on Office of Public Safety Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

Over the past year, members of the Ithaca College community called for new programming, training, and resources to make our campus a more inclusive and diverse environment for learning, living, and working. The Office of Public Safety was one area of focus for improving relationships and protocols. In addition to the further development of standing Public Safety practices, significant progress has been made on some initiatives that were launched to help advance these goals. Below is an update on their status.

Public Safety/Residential Life Workgroup
This group was created in September of 2015, to help construct an environment in which students of color feel safe and respected on campus and to improve the working relationships between the professional and student staffs of the Office of Residential Life and Office of Public Safety. Meeting regularly for the past year, its members have provided an invaluable service in assessing, researching, and prioritizing programs with a potential for having a campus-wide impact.

With the beginning of the new academic year, the workgroup spearheaded joint trainings facilitated by Nicole Eversley Bradwell, director of admission, and Sean Eversley Bradwell, director of programs and outreach, that focused on privilege and how to interrupt bias. Participating in the trainings were the professional staff in the Office of Residential Life and Office of Public Safety, and the student Resident Assistants (RAs) and Student Auxiliary Safety Patrol (SASP) members.

The workgroup will continue to meet throughout the coming year, helping provide input and feedback on the diversity and inclusion initiatives currently in development as well as taking part in programs benefiting the entire campus community.

Satellite Office
Satellite offices, or substations, are a widely recognized tool for fostering community-oriented policing and strengthening relationships between the police and the community that they serve. Because the isolated location of the Office of Public Safety (OPS) on Farm Pond road at the edge of campus makes such relationship-building more challenging, a satellite office is currently under construction in the main lobby area of the Campus Center, near the Information Desk.

Planned to open later this semester, the office will help make Public Safety more visible and accessible in the heart of the campus. The formal opening date will be announced once all of the equipment has been installed and a staffing plan finalized.

“Offering high visibility and easy access during peak hours, this particular initiative will go a long way toward providing a convenient location for all members of the campus community to access Public Safety services and programming, as well as promote more positive engagement between officers and our students, faculty, and staff as well as other guests and visitors,” says Terri Stewart, director and chief of the Office of Public Safety. “Ideally, it will have full functionality, giving us the ability to take reports and conduct interviews in private. Just as important, it will help stimulate both planned and impromptu dialogue and outreach, along with information sharing.”

Stewart says that—due to staffing levels—the satellite office will initially be open for four-hour blocks of time on weekdays. She intends to survey the campus community to find out what the ideal desired operating times would be.

“It will be staffed by personnel from one of the Public Safety service areas, which include Patrol and Security Services, Environmental Health and Safety, Parking Services, and SASP,” says Stewart. “But the appropriate person or material can be always dispatched from our main office, as needed to meet someone’s particular need or situation.”

Body Cameras
Stewart says OPS is on track for the planned fall 2016 implementation of body-worn cameras by all “sworn” personnel—Patrol Officers and command officers who perform law enforcement duties.

The equipment has been purchased and officers have undergone training with the vendor. Currently under review with the college’s legal counsel is the draft guidelines for the use of the body cams, after which the Office of Public Safety/Residential Life Workgroup will have the opportunity to provide input. Consistent with all Public Safety directives, OPS personnel will be given the opportunity to review and provide suggestions on the guidelines for consideration.

Before final implementation of the body cams, an open forum will be held for the campus community, during which questions and concerns surrounding how and when the cameras will be used, and what happens with and who has access to the video, will be answered.

“Our procedures on body-worn cameras will be based on model policies and best practices as established by several widely recognized and appropriate authorities, such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services,” says Stewart. “Additionally, we have had many discussions with the Ithaca Police Department and Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office—which are also in the process of implementing body cams—as well as the Tompkins County District Attorney’s Office. We want to make sure that we are consistent and accountable in our application of this technology.”

External Review
A consulting firm has been selected to conduct an independent review of the Office of Public Safety, with a focus on systems, policies, procedures, practices, and safeguards used to thwart bias-based policing.

Three consultants with expertise in this area submitted proposals, with the firm Margolis Healy chosen following an evaluation by Roger “Doc” Richardson, interim chief diversity officer; Brian Dickens, vice president for human resources; and Marieme Foote ’18, president of the Student Government Association.

Margolis Healy will examine the administrative and operational mechanisms utilized by OPS, assessing their alignment with overall Ithaca College policy and practices as well as the progressive “fair and impartial policing” model—considered the gold standard for recognizing and responding to unconscious bias—under which Public Safety operates. This model will be examined to determine how it meets, exceeds, or falls short of aligning with present-day best practice.

Some specific areas identified for review include existing policies, procedures, and general orders; the collective bargaining agreement with the United Government Security Officers of America union representing some OPS personnel; the internal investigation and disciplinary process; racial profiling data collection, analysis, and interpretation techniques; use of force, vehicle and traffic stop, and pedestrian stop data; training; initiatives and formal goals related to diversity, inclusion, and engagement; and hiring, recruitment, selection, and retention policies and practices.

In addition to identifying areas of deficiency, Margolis Healy will make recommendations for customizing standards and practices in order to meet the unique needs and concerns of the IC community.

“The initial project scope was reviewed by the college’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion, which provided some great feedback, all of which was incorporated into the final plan,” says Stewart. “Margolis Healy will make its first onsite visit in early November. To ensure impartiality, two project liaisons outside of Public Safety—Doc Richardson and Vice President for Human Resources Brian Dickens—will be the primary college contacts with the consultants.”

Community Review Board
A Community Review Board (CRB) is being established to help ensure the campus community’s confidence in the Office of Public Safety and its complaint investigation process. Students, faculty, and staff will be able to initiate a formal complaint through either the existing Public Safety process or through a new process that will be established through the CRB.

The Public Safety/Residential Life Workgroup has provided input on the draft policy; that draft is subject to change pending the outcome of what is known as effects bargaining, which the college is currently engaged in with the Public Safety union.

The composition of the board is required to be diverse and inclusive, representing a broad array of campus community perspectives, and will include students, faculty, and staff.

“The Community Review Board will not replace the formal review or disciplinary process and procedures of either the Office of Public Safety or Ithaca College as a whole,” notes Stewart. “But it will be independent of our office, and may review complaint cases brought to and investigated by OPS. The board will report to a vice president who is outside of the OPS reporting structure.”

The CRB will also perform a yearly audit that will summarize the overall performance of the OPS complaint process, to include the quality of police-community interactions, a count of the year’s complaint cases, and a summation of the year’s complaint cases. The audit will also include recommendations for improvement and corrective actions as appropriate.

Stewart points out that, outside of the initiatives announced this past year, the Office of Public Safety had already taken steps to ensure opportunities for positive interactions with diverse populations on campus.

The Student Engagement Workgroup for Advancing Public Safety Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement Goals—previously called the ALANA Student Engagement Workgroup—has been meeting regularly with OPS since the spring of 2015 to have conversations about ways to form and strengthen relationships. It was this group, in fact, which first recommended the establishment of the satellite OPS office. Both it and the Public Safety/Residential Life Workgroup were invited last spring to take part in the student-initiated IC Color Week activities.

Stewart says she is looking forward to openly exploring continued opportunities available for members of her staff to work intentionally and collaboratively with other members of the IC community in building positive partnerships for problem solving, and for advancing the campus climate for respect and inclusivity—the heart of the department’s mission and vision for community-oriented policing.

Public Safety initiatives will be one of the topics covered in the Diversity and Inclusion Discussion Panel taking place on Tuesday, Sept. 13, from noon to 1:00 p.m. in Textor 102. All members of the campus community are invited to attend. Sean Eversley Bradwell will moderate the discussion; joining Terri Stewart, Doc Richardson, and Brian Dickens on the panel will be Wade Pickren, director of the Center for Faculty Excellence, and Mary Knapp, applications developer in Digital Instruction and Information Services.