In September 2016, DePaul shared with the university community its Speech and Race Action Plan, outlining specific goals and tasks the university would undertake throughout the academic year. To date, Public Safety has participated in multiple training programs and taken concrete steps in support of this action plan, with plans to continue training in the coming years.
"We know this isn't going to be done in one day or one academic year," says Bob Wachowski, director of Public Safety at DePaul. "We are committed to our ongoing training and look forward to continuing to work with the university community."
During their annual winter training session in July 2016, Public Safety officers and administrative staff reviewed Title VI, Title VII and Title IX regulations, which prohibit discrimination of race, religion, sex and national origin, as well as internal policies DePaul uses in situations of discrimination. In reexamining the events of last May, the Public Safety team discussed what could have been approached differently, current issues in the United States, how those issues could affect DePaul's campus and diversity more broadly.
In December, the team participated in a six-hour training session originally developed for the Chicago Police Department and used by other university campus safety organizations around the country. This training focused on restorative justice, establishing relationships with the university community and sensitivity. In addition to analyzing the history of policing in the United States and case studies, the officers participated in role play and acted out various scenarios. These exercises reiterated the importance of using dignity and respect when interacting with members of the university community.
"In addition to being front and center in the country's current political climate, restorative justice and building relationships align with DePaul's core mission," says Liz Ortiz, vice president for Institutional Diversity and Equity. "We want to make sure we are giving our officers the skills and tools they need to excel in their jobs every single day."
In addition to specialized training programs, in the fall Public Safety began working more closely with departments and student organizations. Public Safety investigator Terry Rogers became the official liaison for the department, providing community members a point person for addressing issues. The department also implemented bike patrol officers around the Lincoln Park Campus to increase visibility and encourage community policing. These officers proactively interact with students, faculty and staff to establish relationships, which could ultimately ease tensions when issues arise. The results thus far, Wachowski notes, have been positive.
"Community policing emphasizes the idea that we are always here for the community, rather than just responders after-the-fact," Wachowski says. "So far we've seen the campus respond well. We hope to continue breaking down barriers and building trust with our community so folks know they can turn to us for help."
In the coming months, Public Safety will continue its community policing efforts, review the last academic year and analyze opportunities for improvement. The team will work with the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity for its annual summer training, which again will address themes of diversity and sensitivity.
"Public Safety officers are truly the unsung heroes of our campus," Ortiz says. "They are here 24/7, they offer escorts to those in need and they truly have our community's best interest at heart. Their service means so much to our campus and our stakeholders."