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Villanova University Announces Changes to Its Public Safety Department

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Villanova University today announced changes to the operation of its Public Safety Department. Beginning in fall 2016, Villanova will transition a portion of its campus security operation to establish a University police department. The department will include a combination of security and police officers, with a select group undergoing the same specialized training as public law enforcement. At the completion of this transition, approximately 20 percent of the University’s 75-member department will be police officers.

This transition is part of an ongoing commitment to enhancing the safety and security of Villanova’s campus. By creating a department with both security and police officers, the University can provide a higher level of campus safety, quicker response time and enhanced partnerships with local law enforcement.

The decision was made after two years of thorough assessment and deliberation by the University, which conducted extensive research assessing best security practices in higher education and sought input from a wide range of campus community members. This change in operation will align Villanova with the majority of its higher education peers. Nearly 70 percent of all colleges and universities nationwide have a police department.

“The safety and security of the Villanova campus is our top priority,” said the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, Villanova University President. “We are extremely fortunate that Villanova has been a safe place, but given the increased frequency of safety and security incidents at colleges nationwide, it is essential that the University is proactive in strengthening our ability to provide a safe and secure campus environment.”

To inform this decision, Villanova hired an independent security consultant to assess the current public safety model. The University sought input from its campus community through forums and surveys, and appointed a task force comprised of students, faculty, staff and administrators to explore this issue. The University’s decision reflects input it received during this process, as well as the recommendation from the independent security consultant.

Villanova’s current Public Safety Department is made up of 75 employees who have a variety of responsibilities, including patrol, investigations, parking enforcement, residence hall and building security, crime prevention, and special-event security. The department is accredited through the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA), which provides a professional benchmark for measuring best practices in campus security. At present, however, Villanova Public Safety does not have direct radio communication with local police departments, limiting communication during emergencies. In addition, they cannot use lights and sirens to quickly respond to emergencies, and they cannot stop, question or detain individuals without permission. Officers currently do not carry firearms or other defensive equipment. In addition, the department does not have access to law enforcement databases that aid investigations.

“At Villanova, we value and embrace the concept of an open campus, but we must not overlook the exposure that comes with it,” said Ken Valosky, Villanova Executive Vice President, whose areas of oversight include the Public Safety Department. “With three train stations on campus, close proximity to a major highway and hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, the combination of police and campus security officers will be able to provide a higher level of campus safety.”

University police officers will undergo extensive police academy training. It includes 770 hours of intensive instruction; tests physical and emotional readiness; and provides instruction in crisis management, criminal investigation, patrol, first aid, defensive tactics, and laws and procedures. The department also will require additional specialized training for all officers—both police and security—including ongoing conflict resolution, anti-bias and sensitivity training. Once sworn, the police officers will carry firearms and other defensive equipment. The University will establish an oversight committee to ensure that safeguards are in place and that appropriate policies and procedures are followed.

Preparation for this change will begin immediately, with the first Villanova police officers anticipated to be in place in fall 2016. A full timeline for the transition will be established through a detailed implementation plan, which the University will develop in coordination with a leading independent security consultant. Once the transition is complete, approximately 20 percent of the 75-member Public Safety Department (19 officers) will be police officers. The remainder of the department will continue as security officers. It is anticipated that two or three sworn police officers will work with campus security officers during any given shift. 

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges: the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.