Security hires to improve safety, but lack of information worrisome

By Editor-in-Chief

Upticks in on-campus violence in recent years have caused many college campuses to enforce more stringent security policies and procedures.

This year, Columbia has been among the schools reconsidering their security protocols in order to prevent crime on campus. 

Six new part-time employees, holding the position of “watch commanders,” were hired by the office of Safety & Security during the Fall 2015 Semester in an effort to give additional support to the school’s security detail, as reported in the article on Page 3. 

The increase in experienced personnel is commendable but the administration erred in two important respects: not informing students of the new hires and not discussing their background as former Chicago police commanders. 

The Chronicle discovered through a simple Google Search that one of the new hires had been involved in a civil rights lawsuit that ended 10 years ago that—while resolved in his favor—would seem questionable and alarming to students not well-versed in legal procedure. We later learned that no one at the college had done this simple step. 

At a time when the Chicago Police Department is under federal scrutiny for civil rights violations, we would hope that Columbia’s decision to hire six former police officers would entail a thorough knowledge of their background and a communications strategy for the proper introduction of them to the college’s diverse body of students. 

Columbia students have unfortunately had a front-row view of the many recent instances of alleged and confirmed police misconduct in Chicago, so bringing former CPD officers to the campus without any form of acknowledgment does nothing to improve students’ feeling of safety at the college or foster increased trust in police officers. 

What’s even more troublesome than the lack of communication regarding these new hires—which we assume was done in the interests of campus security so that criminals do not know how well-patrolled the school is—has been the college’s response to The Chronicle’s questions about the new watch commanders. 

When reporting on the watch commanders, we were questioned for even addressing the years-old allegations against one of the new hires on our campus. However, we thought it only logical to address those allegations as any responsible journalists would.

The lawsuit was, in fact, the third listing upon searching the new hire’s name. 

On closer examination, we learned that the plaintiff had sued the police and the city because an alleged domestic violence victim had recanted her story and he claimed on appeal that the police should not have believed her. 

Under the circumstances and after carefully reading the appellate court’s decision, the city’s actions seemed quite defensible.

That being said, The Chronicle staff still has the responsibility to ask the questions that our readers likely would want answered, given that anyone affiliated with the college might type in the commander’s name and complete the same Google Search we did. 

While it seems the new hires could be a highly valuable addition to the college’s security team, it is disappointing to see such a lack of regard for students, faculty and staff in implementing this new initiative. 

In the administration’s eyes, we neither deserve to know who the people are that are responsible for overseeing our safety nor do we deserve answers to simple questions about prior allegations of malfeasance. 

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