Dear campus community,
In the first months of my presidency, I charged a Community Policing Task Force to provide recommendations to enhance public and community policing to help move our campus toward more collaborative and trusting partnerships between our public safety officials and our university community. This work came at a unique moment in our history, as part of our nation’s reckoning with racial injustice. I believed it was our duty to consider new approaches that would ensure a greater sense of community safety and trust, particularly among those who are most vulnerable to discriminatory police actions.
Under the leadership of co-chairs Gregory Ball, now Vice President for Research, and Bonnie Thornton Dill, Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, the members of the Task Force conducted a comprehensive evaluation of our current practices, surveyed peer institutions and conducted listening sessions with members of our community. Their comprehensive report demonstrates the care and attention the entire Task Force took in this critical work. I thank them all for their dedication and diligence.
The Public Safety and Community Policing Report outlined 23 recommendations for improving and enhancing public safety efforts in our community. After careful consideration of the full scope of the report, we will begin implementation of the recommendations below. Some of these recommendations have been long-standing practices and others have been recently adopted.
General Campus and Community Recommendations
- Engage mental health personnel to serve as first responders for mental health calls;
- Establish equitable, transparent and explicit policy, practices and guidelines regarding security at campus events;
- Develop a Memorandum of Understanding between the Division of Student Affairs and the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to develop a student-centered approach to policing;
- Enhance and more fully implement existing community policing programs;
- Continue DPS meetings with its student advisory committee on a regular basis;
- Continue regular and ongoing diversity training for police officers;
- Establish a program of restorative and transformative justice to establish safety and community in the face of different kinds of harm;
- Revise the DPS mission statement to align more closely with the mission of the university;
Recommendations for Police Training, Policies and Practices
- Continue to conduct annual in-service training for all DPS officers on de-escalation, anti-discrimination, anti-retaliation, anti-harrassment, use of force, implicit bias, equity, diversity and inclusion;
- Continue to require mental health screenings for all police officers prior to hiring;
- Continue training DPS personnel on appropriate defensive tactics;
- Create and maintain coordinated protocols for cross-jurisdictional incidents with Prince George’s County, Riverdale Park and Maryland Park and Planning;
- Review the use of tasers, non-lethal weapons and increase the use of non-sworn staff for routine patrols;
- Review current DPS procedures for reporting departmental statistics and implement a website that allows public access to this data;
- Implement DPS policy and procedures to ensure better publicity of departmental resources and reports;
- Review DPS modes of notifying campus and community members about on- and off-campus incidents;
- Review the number of blue light cameras and off-campus lighting;
- Publicly report contracts and other agreements DPS has with Prince George’s County and other police departments;
- Create a program to bolster communication and knowledge between DPS and the campus community, explore opportunities for this to be a for-credit program;
- Consider developing contracts for temporary assignments for DPS officers with outside agencies to promote professional development; and
- Implement a policy for uniform business cards for all DPS personnel to include resources for registering complaints or compliments.
After deliberation, we have chosen to modify the implementation of two Task Force recommendations – (1) the establishment of an independent Office of Community Safety and (2) a new Policing Review Board. In lieu of these measures, I will establish a Campus Safety Advisory Council, with Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Carlo Colella and Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Georgina Dodge serving as Chair and Vice-Chair respectively, and it will be comprised of faculty, staff and undergraduate and graduate students to assist in the implementation of the above-mentioned recommendations. It is also worth noting that recent state legislation established additional accountabilities for law enforcement organizations, including a Police Accountability Board, that would oversee police units including the University of Maryland Police Department (UMPD).
The Department of Public Safety – the officers and staff of UMPD – have played a vital role in keeping our campus community safe. We are grateful that crime rates on our campus continue to decline. UMPD also provides services beyond campus borders, including concurrent jurisdiction in sections of the city of College Park, with a population of over 32,000.
In 2021 alone, DPS provided more than 98,000 services to our community, including welfare and crisis interventions. They have also initiated several new community initiatives, such as the partnership with Lights On and the establishment of a comfort dog program. I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank every member of the UMPD for their work in keeping all of us safe. Under the direction of Chief David Mitchell, UMPD has been responsive and amenable to continual improvement, and a valued partner to our entire campus.
I also want to thank community advocates, who have championed change and progress, for helping us set up structures that emphasize accountability in community policing, with an eye toward compassion and fairness for all.
One of the four core pillars of our university’s new strategic plan is to “invest in people and communities.” I believe the work of the Task Force and the implementation of these recommendations represent a major advance in this strategic commitment. Our university is better today for this important endeavor.