CUNY’s Campus Security Program Outlined

CUNY’S campus security program, building on a strong and long-standing relationship with the New York City Police Department and its borough and precinct commanders, has added initiatives following the Virginia Tech tragedy. Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer Allan H. Dobrin outlines the new initiatives including: speeding up the introduction of text messaging to CUNY students, adding emergency information to all orientation packages, posting campus-specific emergency information on each college website, providing special training to college presidents, and making new efforts to ensure students receive professional counseling. Special reports from Garrie W. Moore, vice chancellor for student development, and President Jeremy Travis of John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Testimony of
Allan H. Dobrin
Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer
The City University of New York
Before the
New York State Senate Committee on Higher Education
Albany, New York—May 1, 2007

Chairman LaValle, Members of the Committee, good morning. I am Allan Dobrin, CUNY’s Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer. Testifying with me today are Garrie Moore, CUNY’s Vice Chancellor for Student Development, and Jeremy Travis, the President of John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

I appreciate the opportunity to testify before you today on CUNY’s ongoing campus security efforts, and to share with you some of the initiatives that we are undertaking in light of the horrific murders at Virginia Tech. We are all grief stricken, and our hearts go out to the families who have suffered such a tragic loss.

But as we offer condolences to the loved ones of the victims, we also share the anguish of the Virginia Tech administration and faculty who must be asking themselves over and over: What more could have been done to prevent this catastrophe? This question is being echoed at every institution of higher education in the United States, and The City University of New York is no exception.

The safety of our students, faculty and staff has always been a CUNY priority. As the largest urban university in the United States, with more than 400,000 students spread out over 23 schools, it is our responsibility to maintain safety and security so that our students can concentrate on learning. A share of this responsibility falls to CUNY’s Department of Public Safety, which consists of approximately 1,000 peace officers, campus security assistants, and contract guards.

At the core of the Department of Public Safety are its sworn New York State Peace Officers, who are armed with batons, pepper spray and handcuffs, and who are authorized to use force and make arrests. And because they have police powers, we make sure that they are very well trained.

Under the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services Guidelines, peace officers must receive 53 hours of training: 35 hours of basic training, 10 hours of baton training and 8 hours in the use of pepper spray. At CUNY, we provide our peace officers with 280 hours. These extra 227 hours are spent in law enforcement and emergency medical classes, which includes CPR, defibrillator, and first aid training. And where peace officers are required to attend 4 hours of annual in-service training and re-qualification, CUNY officers receive an additional 12 hours of annual training on police topics and 16 hours of bi-annual emergency medical training.

In addition to our peace officers, CUNY has a cadre of Campus Security Assistants who are licensed by the New York State Department of State. They possess no special law enforcement powers, but we see to it that they are also well trained. Beyond the State-required 8-hour basic training and 16-hour on-the-job training courses, CUNY provides them with an another 56 hours of training, 80 hours in all, which includes instruction on security in the college environment and emergency medical training. CSAs also attend 8 hours of annual in-service training.

Our campus safety program has been effective in its own right, but it is backed up by the finest police force in the world. Police response to the campuses is coordinated under a Memorandum of Understanding between CUNY and the NYPD. These protocols are updated bi-annually and provide the NYPD with detailed emergency contact information for each campus. Our colleges work closely with local precinct commanders, and it is a great comfort to know that when a violent felony is reported on a CUNY campus, we can expect to see an NYPD squad car within minutes.

Still, we are always trying to learn and improve. Several years ago, CUNY brought in The Bratton Group, headed by former NYPD Police Commissioner William Bratton, to conduct a detailed study of CUNY security operations. The study included reviews of system-wide as well as campus-specific policies and procedures, and recommended a number of operational improvements—such as standardization of equipment and emergency medical response capabilities—that have been implemented.

Around the same time, CUNY retained Kroll Inc., a worldwide leader in security and risk management, to review the University’s emergency management program. In addition to a site-specific study at Hunter College, Kroll developed a comprehensive Emergency Procedures Manual for CUNY and individual Emergency Response Plan templates for every campus building. We have implemented Kroll’s framework for managing emergencies on campus, including the designation of an Emergency Management Team and a primary and secondary Emergency Operations Center. Campuses are also provided with 800 MHz radios that allows for direct communications during a crisis.

One of the key lessons that we learned is that preparedness requires practice. We must continue to expand our tabletop exercise efforts because whenever we conduct them, either internally or in conjunction with other agencies, we find shortcomings that have to be corrected. And we must continue to drill so that evacuation procedures and other emergency actions become ingrained.

When our faculty, staff or students notice someone who seems extraordinarily troubled, we have provided them with the tools to take action in a way that may save the campus from tragedy and still protect the privacy and dignity of an individual employee or student. Garrie Moore, CUNY’s Vice Chancellor for Student Development—whom you will hear from shortly—has focused much of his attention on these issues. He is now accelerating his efforts to ensure that those who require professional attention are getting it, and that the counseling they receive is both effective and discrete.

In addition to our students, CUNY has some 35,000 employees that are entitled to a safe and secure workplace. Because of the legal obligations and the growing sensitivity to workplace violence nationwide, Brenda Malone, CUNY’s Vice Chancellor for Faculty and Staff Relations, has distributed a system-wide policy that was approved by the CUNY Board of Trustees in November 2006. This policy is designed to put formal systems into place to identify hazards and minimize the risks of workplace violence.

Chance may favor the prepared mind, but as we learned from Virginia Tech’s excruciating experience, it offers no guarantees. Although I am proud to share with you CUNY’s ongoing efforts to minimize the potential of violent incidents, I will be the first to admit that I am not satisfied. And that is why we are implementing the following initiatives throughout CUNY.

For starters, we are distributing the final report of the “Safe School Initiative,” a study conducted jointly by the United States Secret Service and the Department of Education. The report provides detailed guidance on identifying characteristics of troubled students or employees. We will assimilate these lessons, we will train our personnel to identify them, and we will provide guidelines for addressing them once they have been identified.

Our college president’s are called on daily to make the difficult decisions on campus. And while they seldom hold life and death in the balance, Virginia Tech has taught us that sometimes they can. Deciding whether to evacuate or lockdown a building in the midst of a crisis is never going to be easy, and it will surely be second guessed after the emergency has passed. We will offer training to CUNY’s Presidents to prepare, to anticipate and to make decisions.

Effective communication is at the heart of incident management. Without quick, clear and explicit instructions, a well organized response can quickly turn into chaos. With more than 280 CUNY buildings, some of which date back to the 19th Century, our public address system has to be thoroughly reviewed. We are currently surveying each of our buildings to assess CUNY’s needs.

As a supplement to revamping our PA systems, we will be accelerating the introduction of a new technology solution—text messaging—that was designed as part of our Enterprise Resource Plan (ERP) implementation, which represents a re-engineering of CUNY’s administrative systems. The legislature has been very supportive of this effort, and we would appreciate any further assistance that you can offer. Even if only a handful of students in each classroom get the emergency text message on their cell phones, they will be able to share the information with others.

An informed student body can be our first line of defense against campus violence if we provide the proper tools. In addition to general campus information, CUNY will now include emergency information in all orientation packages, and we will post campus-specific emergency management information on each college website.

At CUNY, the college president bears ultimate responsibility for campus safety. While Bill Barry, CUNY’s Director of Public Safety, meets with the NYPD’s top leadership to discuss system-wide issues, we have asked each college president is holding similar meetings with the local police commanders to re-invigorate the relationship between the college and the precinct.

The NYPD is our partner in this effort and must be treated as such, but we are not silent partners. So when the NYPD speaks, we must be able to hear. Although some of CUNY Public Safety radios can receive the police band, we would like to make sure that all of our officers have radios that can be switched to the NYPD frequency so that they can listen to local police communications and be fully apprised of developments in an emergency.

In closing, I would like to reiterate my appreciation for being invited to testify today on what we are doing to prevent an incident like the one at Virginia Tech from happening at CUNY. As I’ve said, every time my staff and I discuss our preparedness efforts—and that happens pretty regularly—we find things that could be done better. I can’t promise you that we will be able to prevent every incident, but I can tell you that we will be vigilant, well-prepared and committed to the principle of continuous improvement. The CUNY community is entitled to nothing less.

Thank you.

Testimony of
Dr. Garrie W. Moore
Vice Chancellor for Student Development
The City University of New York
Before the
New York State Senate Committee on Higher Education
Albany, New York – May 1, 2007

Addressing the complex mental health and psychological needs of our students is perhaps one of the most critical, yet complicated functions that someone in my position has. I am a newcomer to CUNY, having been here only nine months, but as a Student Affairs Professional who has supervised these functions at several institutions of higher education for over 30 years, I have firsthand experience at how adequate mental health/counseling services, procedures and policies can help toward responding to tragedies such as the one that occurred at Virginia Tech. Additionally, I worked in the University of North Carolina System during a time when we experienced a similar crisis as Virginia Tech, although not at that magnitude. As a result of this experience, I was asked by the President of the UNC System to chair a system-wide taskforce on campus safety where we looked at existing initiatives and developed an integrated proactive approach to campus security.

Let me share with you what we have done and are currently doing to address mental health/psychological counseling services at CUNY. In 2006 a subcommittee of Student Affairs Professionals engaged in a study of staffing patterns of mental health counseling centers at the CUNY campuses. The subcommittee presented the results of the study to EVC Botman in March 2006. Understanding the severity of the situation, particularly in the residence halls, using COMPACT funding, we were able to partially fund additional fulltime counselors in our residence halls (Hunter & City Colleges).

CUNY recognizes that meeting the mental health needs of our students is a priority. Therefore, I subsequently formed a subcommittee of the Chief Student Affairs Officers to provide recommendations on how we might further enhance the mental health services provided to students. Among other things, the committee helped me to shape the CUNY Clinical Psychological Fellowship program which places qualified graduate students from the CCNY Clinical Psychological Ph.D. Program into campus counseling centers. These graduate students will supplement campus counseling center staff and add to the number of clients that counseling centers are able to take. Working closely with VC Malone, in the office of Faculty and Staff relations, we will review our policies on workplace violence, and make appropriate enhancements. The Student Affairs mental health committee will continue to monitor its work as we work toward addressing, more fully, the mental health needs of our students.

Finally, in terms of policy, we have developed a Medical Withdrawal Policy that would require a student to withdraw from a college should their behavior evidence a direct harm to others or themselves. This policy has been in development far before the Virginia Tech. tragedy.

We cannot control students’ every action, we cannot watch our students 24 hours a day, and predicting the behavior of our students is an art, not a science. But, what we can do is to put in place the best practices, procedures and polices that will protect our campus communities.

Our efforts must be based on firm policies combined with active participation in crime prevention education and strong administrative and legislative support.

I thank you for this opportunity to speak on this very important issue, Campus Safety, which is so important to the recruitment and retention of Students, Staff, and Faculty on our campuses.

Testimony of Jeremy Travis
President, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
The City University of New York
Before the New York State Senate Committee on Higher Education
May 1, 2007
Albany, NY

Chairman LaValle, Members of the Senate Committee on Higher Education:

Good morning. I am Jeremy Travis, President of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a senior college within the City University of New York. I am joined this morning by Dr. Ellen Scrivner, Director of the John Jay Leadership Academy, an initiative of our college designed to support and promote the development of leaders in the law enforcement and criminal justice professions across the country.

This morning, I will speak briefly about the response of the John Jay College community to the recent tragic events at Virginia Tech. Dr. Scrivner and I also bring two additional perspectives to this hearing. As Chairman LaValle knows, I have served as Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters of the New York City Police Department, and Director of the National Institute of Justice. In both positions, I worked on issues of campus and school safety, including an appointment as Chairman of the Chancellor’s Advisory Panel on School Safety, appointed in 1990 by New York City Schools Chancellor Joseph Fernandez. Dr. Scrivner, who is a psychologist with extensive work on policing issues, served most recently as Deputy Superintendent for Administration in the Chicago Police Department, following her tenure as Deputy Director of the Community-Oriented Policing Services (or COPS) office in the Department of Justice where she directed the national training and technical assistance activities of that office. Last week, Dr. Scrivner attended a meeting in Baltimore of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, where these law enforcement professionals were discussing the lessons from Virginia Tech for their campuses.

Like all other institutions of higher education around the country, the John Jay College community was horrified and saddened by the killings at Virginia Tech. On Tuesday morning following the shootings, I convened our executive staff to agree upon a set of responses. Our first concern was the well-being of our students and faculty. Within 24 hours of the incidents, we had mobilized our counseling staff and advised our community that anyone who was experiencing anxiety, depression, or any other emotional difficulty in the wake of the Virginia Tech incidents could seek assistance from these trained professionals. We then reviewed our emergency response protocols, and sent a message to our community reminding them that our campus has a public address system in place in all our buildings so that emergency messages or evacuation orders could be instantly conveyed throughout the college. As this committee is well aware, one of the questions arising in Virginia Tech was the communications between administration and students on campus as those events unfolded. We wanted our students, faculty, and staff to know we could communicate instantly.

Third, we have instituted a number of steps to ensure that our emergency response plan is more than a plan that exists in a manual. Over the next few months, we will be conducting a training program for all key stakeholders on our campus in the key elements of that plan. As a result of regularly scheduled fire drills, we are confident regarding our ability to fully evacuate the buildings quickly and in an orderly fashion in case of any emergency. In addition to that we will conduct a mock disaster drill with help of local public safety agencies to ensure that we can be better prepared in case of such emergencies. We are also implementing a workplace violence strategy and the College Security Committee meets regularly to give key stakeholders an opportunity to speak to our security team about public safety concerns. Consistent with the guidance from the City University of New York, referenced in the testimony of Vice Chancellor Dobrin, we will also reach out to our local police precinct, hospital, and other community service providers to ensure that those lines of communication are open in the event of an emergency.

The fourth step we have taken has to do with prevention and threat assessment. To help address this we have created a Committee on Students in Crisis, chaired by our Vice President for Student Development, Dr. Berenecea Johnson-Eanes.

One of the important lessons from Virginia Tech is the need for coordinated approach –involving the campus, and external entities such as the police, criminal justice and mental health systems – regarding students who are posing a danger to themselves or others. A “student in crisis” can present him or herself to any number of individuals and entities within a campus setting – a faculty member, a counselor, a sports coach, fellow students, administrator or security officer. We believe that our campus should have an ongoing mechanism for sharing information about such students and, more importantly, developing coordinated responses to the behaviors and possibly mental health issues presented by those students.

Answering these questions through the well-timed and thoughtful intervention in the life of a student in crisis can make an enormous difference in that student’s life, can contribute to the well-being of a college community, and can potentially save the lives of others.

We recognize that there are a host of legal and procedural issues that we will confront when we engage in information sharing about specific individuals. But, working with the University’s General Counsel and others, we are committed to working those issues through so that we can take responsible actions when our students are exhibiting troublesome behavior.

I am also pleased to be joined this morning by Dr. Ellen Scrivner. Dr. Scrivner has been involved extensively at the national level in campus security initiatives, including responses to the Columbine shootings. Last week, Dr. Scrivner facilitated a meeting of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) in Baltimore, MD. I would like to share some of the recommendations that came from that meeting:

• Safety planning must be comprehensive. Although the focus of attention is now understandably on the phenomenon of the “rampage shooter,” it is very important that campus safety professionals address issues of alcohol and drug abuse, suicide, and dating violence.
• Behavioral assessment tools should be developed. Administrators, faculty, and students would benefit from guidance regarding the behaviors that are precursors to problems.
• Environmental design is important. College campuses are typically multi-building complexes, sometimes resembling small towns, which should be built and equipped with safety in mind.
• Collaborations should be robust. The relationships between security forces – campus, local, state – can be critical to the development successful response protocols. These relationships should be memorialized in Memorandum of Understanding, and tested in practice drills.

The overarching consensus coming from the Baltimore meeting was the importance of developing professional campus administrators. In some college towns, the campus police force may be as large as (or larger than) the local police. In some cases, the campus police are better trained; in other cases, the opposite is true. Beginning at the executive level of the University Chancellor or College President, and Mayor or Town Supervisor, it is critically important that these relationships be strengthened, built on a sense of professional respect, and tested through mock exercises and frequent training programs.

I appreciate the invitation to testify before this committee this morning, and commend you for tackling this crucial issue in a timely way. My colleagues and I at John Jay College of Criminal Justice are eager to work with this committee as you pursue the important agenda of improving the security of New York State’s colleges and universities.