By Clay Parlette
As the University makes the transition from a security department to a hybrid police/security department, and in the midst of national tensions between police and community, it becomes increasingly important that processes like these are transparent and open to input from the campus community. The University is executing this process very admirably by holding open campus sessions for students, faculty, and staff to meet, listen to, and question the final candidates for the Chief of Police and Director of Security position. While the open session for the first finalist was already held on Nov. 9 in Winebrenner, there is an opportunity to attend the second session on Nov. 16 to meet the second finalist. As a historic moment in UF’s history and maturity, it cannot be emphasized enough how important it is to have an enthusiastic student involvement in this process. The new Chief will become an important ally for students on campus, joining us all in the effort to become a safer place, and it only makes sense that the candidates hear the real concerns of the campus community and have an opportunity to speak to them and exhibit why they are the right fit for the job.
I’ll be blunt. Campus police don’t necessarily have the best reputation nationwide. Remember the officer at UC Davis who deliberately drenched groups of peaceful student protesters with mace? Or how about the University of Cincinnati officer who was just recently indicted for a traffic stop shooting? Of course, some would argue that these are isolated incidents and represent a small percentage of all campus police nationwide, but many students are still concerned—and they have a right to be. It is clear that the leadership at UF understands this and is taking the transition seriously. I think I speak on behalf of many on this campus to say, “thanks.”
The new Chief position will require much more than experience and rank to effectively carry out the job. Students need to know that police on campus are there for the students—protecting them and offering support. Indeed, the needs of campuses nationwide, and especially UF call for a different kind of policing than the typical municipality, and even different from the Findlay PD itself. It’s an inevitable truth that police distrust and even fear is on the rise, and therefore, any candidate that causes even a sliver of question in this dimension should automatically be disqualified from consideration. We need to know that officers on campus are approachable, open for discussion and criticism, and perhaps most importantly of all, disinterested in petty infractions. While petty crime is, by definition illegal, the campus environment will most likely have more of it (ie: underages, speeding, etc.) and police must have an understanding that there is much more to the position than issuing citations. After all, advocacy for the law should be left to the realm of lawyers. Advocacy for the students falls on the campus police.
If a candidate comes from a community that is known as a “speed trap,” they are probably not suited for UF’s position. If there are allegations of a threatening or iron-fisted policing within a department, well, that candidate does not belong here.
The standards are definitely high for our new Chief. It’s almost as if the perfect candidate should be a cop who’s not your typical cop. For me at least, you will have to be able to prove beyond your past positions and committee assignments that you are here because you care for the students and want to help us excel toward prosperous futures while protecting us at all weird hours of the day that college students operate. Merely adding UF’s listing to your list of positions to submit a resume to is not enough. Prove to us that you unquestionably won’t discriminate and are truly here to be our friend and our partner in crime, and we will gladly call you our Chief.