College selects new police chief

John Collins, a former captain of the Port Authority police force of the Lincoln Tunnel, was hired as director of Campus Police on Dec. 17, concluding the search that began nearly a year ago.

Collins was one of two final candidates brought back to the College for interviews with student leaders, held on Sept. 19 and 20. The other candidate, Edmund Johnson, was a 23-year veteran and captain of the Rutgers University Police Department.

Jim Gant, former Student Government Association (SGA) excecutive vice president, announced the formation of a search committee for the then-newly created position at the Jan. 31, 2007, SGA meeting.

The police chief/director of Campus Police position was established as per a recommendation made by the ad hoc committee on Campus Police Relations in its report. The committee was formed during the Fall 2006 semester as the result of a string of allegations of misconduct and infringement of students’ rights.

The committee conducted an investigation into these allegations and issued a report to College President R. Barbara Gitenstein. The report included a series of recommendations for improving student-police relations at the College, one of which was the creation of the chief/director of Campus Police position.

The ad hoc committee’s report listed numerous areas of improvement required within the office of Campus Police, including the transition to a community policing model.

Collins said he is in the process of reviewing the report.

“I’m going to be reviewing that report again. I read and re-read it, and practically slept with it under my pillow while I was preparing for the interview,” Collins said. “And we’re going to tackle most of the problems identified in that report one at a time. I know there’s been a dialogue among the president’s cabinet on that report. One step at a time, we’re going to make progress.”

One of the issues mentioned in the report was a shortage of Campus Police officers, a problem currently faced by the office of Campus Police, according to Collins. He attributed this problem to the lengthy civil service hiring process.

Collins said there are more similarities than differences between his old job with the Port Authority and his new job at the College.

“We play a supporting role. We have to help the agency, in this case the College, to accomplish its mission,” he said.

According to Collins, his responsibilities as the director of Campus Police will be primarily administrative in nature.

“As a chief, you tend to have more administrative responsibilities but there will be times when I will be out in uniform and visible,” he said. “You can look forward to seeing me out and about on campus when time allows.”

Gitenstein said she expects Collins will be a welcome asset to the College’s administration.

“(Collins) has all the skills and abilities necessary for leading this very important function on our campus,” Gitenstein said.

“We will surely gain from his extensive experience and his thoughtful engagement in our ideal of community policing on a college campus.”

According to Patrice Coleman-Boatwright, chair of the search committee, Collins was chosen because he was the best overall fit for the College community.

“In the end there were so many variables at play in the final selection that I cannot offer any one reason why Collins was chosen,” she said.

Coleman-Boatwright said Collins’ experience with the Port Authority and his experience responding to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center are of value to the campus. She said his career has given him knowledge of emergency services and critical incident management.

She also said it has afforded him the opportunity of having “leadership roles in cooperation with multiple municipal, state and federal agencies.”

Coleman-Boatwright added that Collins possesses knowledge of “information technology as it relates to public safety.”

“These competencies are extremely valuable in a college setting,” she said.

According to Matt Golden, director of Communications and Media Relations, the change in the title from Police Chief to director of Campus Police – as indicated by the Dec. 17 mass e-mail sent out by the College announcing Collins’ hiring – does not indicate a change in the job description or how Collins will be expected to fill it.

“Certain positions have a title that is used on campus and a different one that falls within the listing of titles for New Jersey employees,” Golden said in an e-mail interview. Citing an example, he said the College’s sports information director “has an official state title of managing assistant director.”

“Your local title gives people a better idea of what you actually do than the state title,” he explained.

Coleman-Boatwright also said the new job title does not indicate a change in job description.

“His title, as per the Board resolution, is director of Campus Police and campus police chief. This title does not change any of the original requirements of the job,” she said.

Vincent Markowski, director of security at Ramapo College, said the director job title is common throughout New Jersey colleges and universities.

“In most cases a chief is a sworn law enforcement official, whereas a director is non-sworn. However, many times a director is referred to as chief by members of the department and the community,” Markowski said.

He said the College’s decision to use director is not unusual.

“It is not uncommon for a college or municipality to hire a director to administrate a police department in place of a chief of police,” he said.

In addition to Ramapo, Rowan University and William Patterson University also have directors for their campus police forces.