I recently read the Editorial Board’s piece regarding changing the Department of Public Safety as well as possibly ending their collaboration with outside police departments. In response, I would like to provide a bit of history to correct any misinformation about the origins of campus police and to urge readers to look at campus police in a different light.
During the civil unrest of the Vietnam War era, there was an infamous incident which took place at Kent State University. Perhaps you heard the song ‘Ohio’ written by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; it was written a few days after this tragic event, and a verse in the song memorialized it with the words “4 dead in Ohio.” That day, May 4th, 1970, the National Guard was ordered to Kent State’s campus to restore order during which time the guardsmen opened fire on students, killing four. Out of this terrible, tragic event, the campus police were established. Many felt that it made sense to allow colleges and universities to establish their own public safety or police departments to protect their campus communities. These campus departments would be more familiar with their communities of young adults, away from home for the first time.
Although these officers went to the same police training academies as any municipal department, there was one important difference that was key to campus policing. These officers had access to another layer of remediation for any disturbance or incident. They could make referrals to the Dean of Students, as well as referrals to McCosh Health Center for health concerns and other referrals as needed for a student who needed these or other services.
Another important responsibility was to embrace and protect their campus community from the outside criminal activity of people who made it a point to take advantage of opportunities to prey on these so-called soft targets. Public Safety formed a thin blue line around the orange bubble, if you will. It cannot be measured statistically just how Public Safety’s mere presence thwarts such criminal activity.
Throughout all their training, the officers in Princeton’s Public Safety department wear many hats to protect your environment every day, 24/7, whether you are aware of their presence or not.
I challenge the entire Editorial Board to embrace your Public Safety department and make an appointment to speak with these dedicated officers who put their lives on the line every day to keep you safe.
It’s easy to fall in line with the calls to defund or change public safety and police departments. I submit to you that the Public Safety department at Princeton works hard to meet these ever-growing demands and ever-changing needs of their campus community. We are all challenged daily to meet these demands to better service the individual on several levels, as well as the campus community at large.
Rather than jumping on the bandwagon, why not rise above the fray and reach out to your Psafe officers and get to know them. They have always had their door open to learn about you, your concerns, and your best interests. Have you ever taken a bit of your time to take them up on their invitation to listen to your concerns?
I served campus communities as both an armed campus police officer at Trenton State College, now The College of New Jersey, and as a dispatcher and security officer at Princeton University DPS before retiring in December 2016 — a total of 30-plus years of service. Every police department should take care of their communities as they do at Princeton University. You should be proud of the body of work they do caring for you on a daily basis.
So instead of beating them up, I urge you to go meet and find out just how much they care about you. You might come away with a new perspective.
I hope you will stop and consider learning more about PSafe. Voice your concerns! Regardless of how you feel about them, they will continue to respond to your call for assistance, and they will always be there for you.
Leslie A. McCausland is a former DPS security officer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.