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Margolis Healy Report and Recommendations

In 2014 the college contracted with Margolis Healy, a nationally noted professional services firm that specializes in higher education safety and security, to assist in a thorough review of Vassar's safety and security policies and practices. This review considered the department's structure, procedures, and relationships with constituencies on campus, with alumnae/i and other visitors to campus.

Margolis Healy provided Vassar with a Public Safety Management Study (Preliminary Report). Included in the report is a list of their specific recommendations for actions they believed the college needed to take. Some of these recommended actions have been taken; others are in progress or ongoing.

Margolis Healy and Associates has continued to work with Vassar to ensure that these recommendations are implemented in full alignment with best practices in higher education safety and security management. Margolis Healy has provided specific assistance in the development of written directives, training needs assessments and expanded professional development opportunities in the area of diversity and inclusion for all safety and security personnel.

Margolis Healy Recommendations

2016-17 Academic Year

Status: In progress and ongoing.
View status update.

  • The college will pursue accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) or the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Agencies (IACLEA).
  • Work with internal and external partners to develop a strategic plan that aligns with the goals and objectives defined within the shared governance process of Vassar College. The strategic plan should be used to establish the operational direction for the Department.
  • Develop criteria for establishing patrol sectors, memorialize these criteria in writing, and review them periodically.
  • Develop benchmarks for success to determine the effectiveness of existing security operations.
  • Ensure that data analysis and regular assessment of campus community safety concerns guide crime prevention programming.
    • Optimize current records management system to conduct regular analysis of crime trends on campus;
    • Obtain regular crime data from local police; and,
    • Use the information streams above to guide community safety awareness efforts.
  • Develop template presentations easily adapted for special topics and quickly learned and delivered by any officer with the requisite training and certification.
  • Expand opportunities, beyond the current offering, for in-service training.
  • Develop a model officer profile and share it with those individuals involved in the selection process.
  • Develop a recruitment program and focus on the following venues:
    • Career fairs;
    • Community organizations;
    • Local colleges, including community colleges; and
    • Local and regional non-profit organizations (who may have downsized due to the economy).
  • Assess the current dispatch console and consider upgrading it to current technology.

2015-16 Academic Year

Status: In progress and ongoing.
View status update.

  • The Department should revise, update, and/or develop written directives for the critical areas of Safety and Security operations.
  • The college should require the department to collect data on citizen race/ethnicity as a means to analyze the nature of Safety and Security and citizen interactions; build accountability; and repair the relationship between the department and the campus community. This initiative should be appropriately managed to avoid unintended consequences.
  • The college should consider the mandatory use of "body-worn cameras" for Safety and Security Department officers.
  • Conduct a survey of faculty, staff, and students to better understand perceptions, attitudes, and opinions on campus safety and security. This survey could be conducted annually, but should be conducted at least every three years.
  • The college should consider developing campus-wide education and programming that supports the goals of diversity and inclusion. New and continuing students should be immediately oriented to Vassar’s core values regarding open-mindedness, respect and civility.
  • Form a training committee to identify Safety and Security training needs by conducting a Training Needs Assessment. The committee should include members from the wider college community.
  • Establish a formal field-training program for new officers. We encourage the department to rotate officers in the program through various campus stakeholders (e.g., students and administrators within the office of campus life and diversity, residential life, the student conduct system, etc.).
  • Provide all supervisors with training and coaching.
  • Consider creating a crime prevention officer position that can focus primarily on prevention programming and community engagement.
  • Establish specific areas of responsibility assigned by either:
    • “Practice areas,” for example, different officers are subject matter experts in areas such as technology, Rape Aggression Defense (RAD), substance abuse prevention, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, stalking prevention, mental health, etc.; or
    • By community assignment with officers assigned to liaison with constituent groups such as the African-American and Latino students, LGBTQ community, international students, etc.
  • Conduct a comprehensive job analysis and revise job descriptions to ensure they reflect the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for a community-policing model. Position descriptions should highlight skills such as the ability to de-escalate violent situations, communicate with diverse groups of people, mediate disputes, and collaborate with other campus departments, and government and social service agencies to solve problems.
  • Work with the Office of Human Resources to develop a selection process based on behavioral interviewing and which includes clear forms of assessing officer performance.
  • Strongly consider involving campus community members, especially representatives from offices who work most closely (residential life, judicial affairs) with Safety and Security, and students in stages of the selection process.
  • Involve the Office of Human Resources in training for selection members to ensure interviews and assessments are conducted efficiently and within legal parameters.
  • Ensure that all selection and promotional processes include a final interview with the director of Safety and Security or his/her designee. The purpose of this final step is to ensure that the campus safety enforcement executive has final say in personnel selection and promotion.
  • Explore adding the Town police radio frequency to the Safety and Security console to provide radio interoperability in emergencies. As an alternative, install a scanner to allow for monitoring the Town police frequency.
  • Consider hiring additional personnel to serve as full time dispatchers for Safety and Security.
  • Conduct an in-depth assessment of the dispatch component of Police-Pro to ensure it meets the functions and needs a campus safety and security response system. Consider replacing Police-Pro with a computer aided dispatch system.
  • Explore adding the Town police radio frequency to the Safety and Security console to provide radio interoperability in emergencies. As an alternative, install a scanner to allow for monitoring the Town police frequency.
  • Consider hiring additional personnel to serve as full time dispatchers for Safety and Security.
  • Establish a formal training program for newly appointed CRC personnel, that consists of written training objectives, provides benchmarks, timelines, performance expectations, etc. Ensure the training program meets state and/or national standards for dispatchers.
  • Implement improved security procedures for the Campus Response Center to include limiting access strictly to authorized personnel.

2014-15 Academic Year

The college will complete the search for the new Director of Safety and Security involving a search committee that reflects the diversity of the Vassar College community.
Status: Search completed.
View status update.

The college will create a Safety and Security Advisory Committee comprised of a cross section of the campus. The committee should be charged with periodically meeting to address a wide range of campus security issues.
Status: Committee development complete. Work is ongoing as recommended.
View Vassar response and status update.

The college must develop a policy prohibiting biased policing and a process and related written directive for citizen complaints against officers.
Status: Complete.
View Vassar response.

The department should review its current recruitment and hiring processes to ensure it is making earnest efforts to identify a diverse hiring pool and selecting diverse candidates when possible.
Status: In progress/continuing as recommended.
View Vassar response.

The college should ensure that the Safety and Security Department receives ongoing and consistent diversity and inclusion training. The college should invest in initial orientation and ongoing training programs for the Safety and Security Department to build stronger awareness, knowledge, skills and sensitivities around issues of race, diversity, and inclusion.
Status: In progress/continuing as recommended.
View Vassar response.

The Department should revise, update, and/or develop written directives for the critical areas of Safety and Security operations.
Status: In progress/continuing as recommended.
View Vassar response and status update.

The college should reach consensus on what it means to be an "open campus," and develop guidelines on what that means regarding campus community members and authorized guests traversing the campus when the campus is "closed."
Status: Completed.
View Vassar response and status update.