Police Chief candidates narrowed to two

Additional interview sessions with student leaders were held last week for the position of Campus Police Chief/Director of Campus Security.

The sessions, held with various student leaders in attendance, were added to the search process partially in response to an editorial that ran in the Aug. 29 issue of The Signal, according to Curt Heuring, vice president of Facilities Management, Construction and Safety.

Heuring said the editorial prompted discussion of the search and hiring process for the newly-created position with College President R. Barbara Gitenstein and her cabinet, executive president of Student Government Association (SGA) Christine Cullen, and a member of the Police Chief/Director of Campus Security search committee.

“We discussed it and agreed that these interviews wouldn’t be a bad idea,” Heuring said.

Gitenstein said additional meetings with final candidates were always a planned aspect of the hiring process.

“It was always the plan that we would bring back the finalists for further meetings with Mr. Heuring,” she said in an e-mail interview. “However, as we were discussing the next steps in the process, we recognized that there was considerable student interest in the fi nal choice and that it would be easy enough to schedule another opportunity for Mr. Heuring to get further input from students on his decision.”

Gitenstein added that the additional opportunities would allow Beth Paul, interim provost, to meet with the two candidates. She had not previously had this opportunity.

Heuring said the student interview sessions held on Sept. 19 and 20 were not part of the planned hiring process for the newly- created position. In an e-mail interview, he added that they were created to be more “inclusive of students.”

“I read the editorial and thought that we had gone to great lengths to accommodate student opinion,” he said.

The editorial raised questions about how the search process for the Police Chief/Director of Campus Security position was conducted, and said the process restricted and limited student participation.

Heuring said the administration “wanted to remove any doubt” regarding the search and hiring process. Heuring said the interests of the students were considered throughout the process.

“I’ve done everything I can to figure out how to get student input on this,” he said.

The announcement of the interviews was made in the Sept. 19 edition of The Signal in the “Eye on SGA” article. According to Cullen, the interviews for the final two candidates were created for leaders of various student organizations to evaluate the two finalists. She said the goal was to facilitate “more focused conversation” regarding the two finalists.

“Rhelda Richards (associate vice president of Facilities Management, Construction and Safety) sent out an e-mail to the presidents of the major organizations on campus inviting us to the forums,” Cullen said in an e-mail interview.

The student leaders received evaluation forms which they completed regarding each candidate and submitted to Heuring.

The first finalist, John M. Collins, the commanding officer of the Port Authority police force of the Lincoln Tunnel, visited the College on Sept. 19. Eleven student leaders were present at this interview. Collins has worked for the Port Authority for 27 years.

Collins, a third-generation police officer who was also part of the emergency response to the attacks on the World Trade Center, said that although managing Tunnel security and supervising police on a college campus seem different, the two have a great deal in common.

Collins said both the Lincoln Tunnel and the College have “transient communities.” Just as people pass through the tunnel, students are constantly moving back and forth between home and college, then finally into the working world or another learning institution. Collins said successful policing of the Tunnel was achieved by reaching out to the community.

“It takes a lot of bridge building,” Collins said. “If there’s not a relationship (between police and the community), the police aren’t doing their job.”

Collins described the essential nature of community policing to any college campus. He said “community policing is outcome-based.” Collins said as Police Chief, he would want the office of Campus Police to be more involved in the campus community.

He listed his priorities as “getting cops out of the cars” and “getting the sense to them that there’s more to their mission than writing tickets.”

Capt. Edmund Johnson was the second finalist to visit the College. Four student leaders were in attendance for his visit. Johnson currently serves the Rutgers University Police Department. He has worked for Rutgers University since he graduated from the New Jersey Sate Police Academy in Sea Girt in 1984.

“It’s important that police police themselves,” Johnson said. “I was troubled to read the ad hoc Committee’s report of complaints that were not addressed,” he added, referring to both the ad hoc Committee on Campus Police Relations and the extensive report it published at the end of last semester.

Johnson also discussed several initiatives he would like to undertake at the College.

“I’d like to see police use education first,” he said. As part of this educational approach, he suggested crime prevention programs for students and possibly attendance of SGA meetings by police officers.

Johnson also said he would like to see more involvement of police in the campus community. “It’s very presumptuous of a police department to tell a community what its problems are,” he said. “We need to become part of the community here.”