Campus police chiefs and other public safety administrators working toward keeping the nation’s colleges and universities safe have a new resource for technical assistance, training, research, networking…and many other potentially useful resources.
Funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), a component of the U.S. Department of Justice, the National Center for Campus Public Safety opened in May 2014 with immediate goals of identifying and prioritizing needs, helping constituents connect with existing federal and non-federal resources, promoting best practices, and delivering training and technical assistance. That technical assistance is already under way, as Director Kim Vansell reports that specific inquiries have already begun coming in via the Center’s toll-free number (866-817-5817) and email box (firstname.lastname@example.org), and training is under development and coming soon.
“The first thing our training and technical assistance coordinator is working on is developing a Trauma-Informed Sexual Assault Investigation and Adjudication training curriculum for campus officials involved in the investigation and adjudication process,” Vansell says. “Our plan is to start with pilot training sessions and then expand with train-the-trainer sessions in each of the six International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators [IACLEA] regions. This will enable campuses all over the country to reach out to a nearby resource to obtain the training.”
Vansell says that at least a portion of that training should eventually be available online at no cost, and the in-person version will be either no-cost or low-cost. Long-term training plans call for creation of a certificate in advanced educational studies in areas that include Title IX and the Clery Act, which may also involve both online and in-person components: “Many campus police chiefs come from municipal police departments and they may not have the background to help them with issues specific to campus policing. We want to help them understand what compliance looks like and how to implement it.”
With trainings evolving and research into identified needs underway, the Center is preparing to launch a full version of its website, http://nccpsafety.org/, in late September. The expanded site will offer information on Center projects and training, a calendar of events and relevant news headlines. Vansell advises members of her target audience to check the site often for updates, and to sign up to receive email updates, including The Weekly Snapshot, a newsletter listing resources and new information.
“We’re working with our partners and our constituents to determine the key areas where we should focus. Sexual assault is of course a major area, and mental health and threat assessment should be a primary focus for everyone. And underage drinking, suicide and drug abuse have been key for some time, along with issues such as civil disobedience and special event security,” Vansell says. “We’re working to identify where we should put our resources and efforts first.”
One area already identified as a priority is the need for an online national directory of campus police chiefs and emergency managers, which would then facilitate networking and sharing of best practices and lessons learned. (This directory would be available only to vetted law enforcement officials). Other projects in the works include cooperating with the University of Vermont (both the university and the Center are located in Burlington) to expand, and eventually become the sole host of, the university’s legal issues conference. At present, the conference targets legal counsel and student affairs professionals; the expanded audience would include more campus safety professionals.
Another partner, the VTV [Virginia Tech] Family Outreach Foundation, has been developing a multi-disciplinary, standards-based program to “improve campus safety and empower officials to make informed decisions, and to help campuses conduct self-assessments and learn about best practices, and we will support them in their work. We’ll also be working with various university faculty members and hiring research fellows.”
And to pave the way for the more formal, long-term projects, Vansell and her staff are fielding requests for resources and using them as an informal needs assessment: “You can Google a question and get 20,000 hits, and that just leaves you confused. Our goal is to bring together all those resources, weed through them and point folks to the right ones in a user-friendly way. We also want to help them work together to share their experiences so they’re not all out there alone.”