By Kareema Vernon
The College is currently in the final stage of recruitment for its next chief of police. The search committee held three forums in the Library Auditorium, one for each of the final three candidates — the College’s Interim Chief of Police Timothy Grant, Lt. Christopher Cherbini of Marlboro Police Department and Administrative Sergeant Brian Melnick at Princeton University Department of Public Safety.
The candidates discussed why they should be chosen for the position with the many stakeholders in attendance to allow the committee to receive feedback from the public.
Cherbini spoke first at the March 19 forum, followed by Melnick who spoke on March 23. Grant spoke at the final forum on March 26.
Cherbini discussed his work with the Marlboro Police Department. Cherbini also talked about his experience working at the college level as an adjunct professor of criminal justice at Brookdale Community College. Many students are afraid or distrustful of police and do not know when to talk to officers, according to Cherbini.
Cherbini understands that there are different programs and resources at the College that will help students gain confidence and trust in officers. He is an advocate for de-escalation training when it comes to dealing with violence and mental health issues.
“I think safety is a big thing,” Cherbini said. “I’m into being a partner because it can’t be me — it has to be a team.”
If given the position, Cherbini plans on applying the skills he gained from his previous experiences in community policing.
Grant shared his experiences as the College’s interim chief of Campus Police for the past year, as well as his experience as a captain for Campus Police, a position he held for eight years. Grant made it clear that he wanted to focus on the effectiveness of Campus Police in terms of how officers handle complaints and other daily duties.
Grant said that Campus Police has multiple training sessions for its officers, one of which teaches them how to properly use body cameras. Campus Police also held an active shooter training session during winter break to educate Campus Police officers, members of the Ewing Township Police Department, New Jersey Human Services Police and student volunteers on how to respond to an active shooter situation. More than 35 students work with Campus Police, assisting them with general office work, according to Grant.
Melnick spoke about his previous policing work at Princeton University. Melnick believes that the police department should be more incorporated into the College, and officers should learn how to be more proactive about working with the community by reaching out to student groups.
The threat of violence, terrorism and mental illness are three of the major issues that students face today, according to Melnick.
“I think service should always come before enforcement,” Melnick said.
Melnick discussed the latest advances that have occurred within police departments across the state, as well as the safety of the community.
“I’m a big believer in body cameras and car cameras,” he said.
Body cameras will help the police as long as they are doing their job correctly, according to Melnick, who wants to make Campus Police one of the most visible departments if given the opportunity.
Jonathan Blair, a staff member who works in the College’s IT Networking Department, attended all three forums. Blair believes that whichever candidate is chosen should focus on finding the right balance between policy and a working relationship with students.
“I think that all three candidates have positive things about them,” Blair said.
Liz Bapasola, the assistant vice president for Student Affairs, was also in attendance at the forums.
“I thought all the candidates handled themselves well,” she said.
The final decision for the College’s next chief of police will be announced in mid-April.