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Campus Police win high marks in first-ever peer review

MIT Campus Police received high marks from a peer review team invited by Chief Anne P. Glavin to assess the department in three key areas. It was the first peer review for the department since it was formed in 1957.

Members of the three-person review team spent three days on campus last September and interviewed focus groups of students, staff and faculty as well as members of the command staff of the Cambridge Police Department. They were charged with studying the organizational structure of the Campus Police department, its mission and the community's sense of how well the department was fulfilling it, and compliance with the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act.

"I was very pleased with the results of the review, particularly with the overall impression of our federal law compliance document, The Safety, Security and Crime Prevention Handbook for MIT, but most especially I was pleased with the community comments about the professionalism of our officers and our rapid response to incidents," said Chief Glavin. "It's a wonderful compliment to our officers as individuals as well as to the organization as a whole.

"There are a number of areas where the review team gave us things to think about in terms of different ways to approach practices or procedures," she said. "Some of these ideas have been helpful in getting us to 'step outside the box' and come up with new approaches on our own.

"The improved manner in which we are reviewing criteria for overtime details is one such example. The Campus Police Department management team examined this process and ultimately devised a solution that benefited officers by reducing some of the volume of overtime details while at the same time saving some student organizations money and yet preserving security concerns. It's not often you can approach a problem and have a solution help a multitude of issues," Chief Glavin said.

Before the study was commissioned, the command staff knew from community feedback and self-analysis that some changes were called for. Since the study, Chief Glavin said, the command staff has participated in a series of retreats that have led to a reorganization of the command staff itself, a plan to re-energize the community policing program, and more efficient accountability and decision-making procedures.

"The Campus Police Depart-ment's management team is in the midst of studying and implementing improvements in the way in which we do business, both internally and in our interactions with the MIT community that we serve," said Chief Glavin. "We have made a number of organizational changes in the last year towards this end and will continue the process of improving our organization to better serve the community so we can more efficiently function as an organization in our day to day business practices."

The review team was highly impressed with MIT's actions in implementing the Campus Security Act; the policies and procedures used by Campus Police could "serve as models for other institutions to emulate," its report said. They also cited The Safety, Security and Crime Prevention Handbook for MIT in both print and web formats as "well organized and easy to read."

In reporting on the focus group discussions, the report said: "Every group rated the MIT Police well." The department was cited for responding swiftly when called and operating at "a high level of professionalism" in resolving problems.

The bicycle patrol was singled out for its ability to cover large areas while remaining "personally accessible" to members of the community. "Officers on bicycles [are] a welcome sight," all groups reported to the review team.

The Cambridge Police Department noted the high level of cooperation between the departments on a day-to-day basis. The review team said Cambridge police "expressed the utmost respect for the MIT Police Department and its leadership."

Students, faculty and staff praised crime prevention programs and called for more of them. Students favored community policing and called for increased communication with the department and individual officers. Some focus group members called for regular meetings and forums.

The department was complimented for "high visibility" outside the buildings on campus, though the need for a greater presence inside buildings was expressed. "We have to work harder on this issue," said Chief Glavin.

Some students expressed reservations about the dual role officers play as EMTs and law enforcement officials, particularly in incidents involving alcohol. Nonetheless, the review team said the majority of students understood that saving a life "outweighs the matter of an underage drinking citation." Students also felt police cracked down on underage drinking in 1998 and understood why -- "the added emphasis was probably a result of the student death due to alcohol poisoning."

Members of the review team were Chief Susan Riseling of the University of Wisconsin at Madison Campus Police; Dr. Bruce McBride, assistant vice chancellor of the State University of New York; and Douglas F. Tuttle, a policy scientist from the University of Delaware.

A version of this article appeared in the May 5, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 29).

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