June 12 Message to the Community
June 12, 2020
Dear Villanova Community:
I share the outrage that so many have expressed over the senseless killing of George Floyd. This incident tears at the fabric of police community relations, a fabric that many of us in law enforcement have been working to mend throughout our professional lives. The murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police is appalling. Demoralizing is the fact that this incident is yet another in a long list of situations involving disparate treatment of Black men and women by the police.
The Villanova University Department of Public Safety continues to work hard to be a trusted resource for students, faculty and staff—especially those from Black and other minoritized communities. We pride ourselves in being guardians of Villanova’s community—an integral part of University life showing students that a different style of policing is possible: that the police can be examples of fairness, compassion, and most importantly integrity. It is work that is never “done.” We are always striving to do better. We particularly focus on the following elements in building a successful, community-oriented approach.
We are committed to outreach. We can’t effectively serve the needs of a community we don’t know. Relationships must be built before times of crisis. We have worked to infuse ourselves into campus life at every given opportunity. A large banner in the Public Safety roll call room reminds us that “We need to know our community before we need to know our community.” Examples include:
- Sit-down dinners with student groups such as Student Government Association, Black Student Union and others throughout the year. These dinners provide opportunities for officers and students to engage in conversation and discuss issues that are important to students.
- Conducting programming and training for students, faculty and staff beginning with new student and new employee orientation.
- Serving as liaisons to student groups to maintain regular communication throughout the year.
- Using a department-branded ice cream truck, providing free ice cream as a small gesture of kindness and outreach to brighten people’s day.
We are accountable to the community we serve, and to ourselves. Accountability is a tool for continuous improvement, reminding us that we must remain “restless”—never settling for the status quo. Examples of our accountability to the University community include:
- A Police Oversight Committee chaired by Rev. Robert Hagan, OSA, and comprised of a diverse group of faculty, staff, students and alumni. The Oversight Committee reviews the activity of the Public Safety Department, provides feedback and suggests new ideas and initiatives. The Oversight Committee holds an annual open forum, and the Chair reports annually to the Board of Trustees.
- The department is one of only a handful of campus departments accredited by the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission (PLEAC). Accreditation requires a strong set of policies and procedures that guide our actions and establish expectations for officers.
- The department was an early adopter of body cameras. Body camera footage is routinely reviewed and helps in the process of continuous improvement and resolution of complaints.
- All newly hired officers must undergo drug screening prior to employment. Officers are also subject to random in-service drug screenings.
The need for training is a constant. Beyond traditional police training, we train officers in a number of areas to help prepare them for the situations they may encounter. Examples of ongoing training include:
- Implicit bias
- Conflict resolution
- Police ethics
- Use of force: Officers annually undergo a three-day training on the use of force, both policy and techniques. Our use of force training focuses on techniques designed to keep the officer and the subject safe. It is important to note that our department has never authorized choke holds or other techniques that interfere with a person’s ability to breathe.
Ensuring that we hire the right people as officers is a paramount concern. Providing police and public safety services in a college environment requires a special skill set—patience, thoughtfulness and a commitment to the values of Villanova. Several elements of our hiring process include:
- Inclusive interview panels that include a diverse representation from across the University community. Several members of the Oversight Committee also assist in the hiring process by serving as assessors on interview panels.
- A focus on qualities such as empathy, interpersonal communication and problem solving as part of candidate screenings.
- Thorough background investigations that go well beyond reference checks and include in-person visits by a background investigator to an applicant’s previous employers. Applicants for police positions also undergo a polygraph examination.
Routine review and revision of our hiring practices to ensure we are obtaining the most qualified and diverse applicants for positions within the Public Safety Department.
Just as our campus is a microcosm of the community, so is the Public Safety Department a tiny piece of the law enforcement community in this country. This is a critical time for all of us. A time to come together. We want to hear from you, and we invite further dialogue.
Villanova’s Public Safety Department is dedicated to being the best we can be. We want to be an exemplary model of a community driven police force. The students, staff and faculty of Villanova University should accept nothing less.
Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police