After reading Professor Richard Zevitz’s “Letter: DPS should be certified public safety entity,” my reaction was the following: Yes! Yes! Yes! Zevitz raises important issues that align with the concerns of a significant number of students here at Marquette. Finally, someone breaks the silence on a point that students would most likely be afraid to make. I find that if this question were first posed by a student, it would not have been taken seriously. I thank Zevitz for setting this on the table. With the tragedies of Sandy Hook and Steubenville dwelling (hopefully) not very far back in our minds, there is no better time than right now to have a discussion concerning student safety and security.
I was surprised, but glad, to see somewhat of a response in the article, “Commission DPS officers? No comment, captain responds.” Unfortunately, this article did not leave me wholly satisfied, but it did cause me to question why. Cue the palm-to-forehead gesture. As much as you were hoping for Captain Russell Shaw to have a reply with substance, could you really expect him to say anything more? No.
On paper, Captain Shaw may appear to be the correct source for a response to Zevitz’s letter. But, in reality, there is a conflict of interest. In my opinion, if I worked at an institution for almost three decades and had risen through the ranks, I too would not want to radically change the department.
Whom would I have interviewed? I would want (hint, hint, I want) a response from Fr. Pilarz or the Board of Trustees. Previously, the university was transparent about what led to the decision to implement the policy of drinking fines. In making the decision, Erin Lazzar, assistant dean of students, said “Marquette consulted with administrators at Boston College, Georgetown University, Loyola University Chicago, Saint Louis University, Santa Clara University and the University of San Francisco.”
Among these schools, at least some have commissioned police officers. If similar schools, such as Loyola University Chicago, Saint Louis University and Northwestern University, have a commissioned police program, why doesn’t Marquette have commissioned police officers? Furthermore, as Zevitz noted, “the Governor’s Task Force on School and Campus Safety recommended this reform four years ago.” Given these facts, it seems extremely problematic for us, as a community, to be left in the dark on the reasons why Marquette does not use commissioned police officers.
I am not a business major, but I have learned that business decision-making is heavily based on feasibility. One reason the university may not find switching to commissioned police officers feasible is that it would be too timely and costly. Given the information on the Milwaukee Police Department’s website, it is most likely that DPS officers would need to meet the following requirements:
“Must possess either a two-year Associate Degree from a Wisconsin technical college system district or its accredited equivalent from another state, or a minimum of 60 college level credits from an accredited college or university, within five years of hire. If this requirement is not met by the end of the fifth year of employment, the police officer will be decertified by the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Standards Board and will be separated from employment. If someone has been decertified by the LESB, the 60 credit requirement must be fulfilled before he/she is eligible to reapply for a police officer job. … Must complete a paid 23-week police training course at the Police Academy … After successfully completing the training course, will be assigned to a district police station for field training … The selection process will include a written test, a physical ability test (that includes a 1.5-mile run), an oral interview, a writing sample exercise and background investigation.”
How much would these requirements upset the status quo at DPS if a new commissioning policy were implemented? I would guess that the department would need to radically change, but this guess is not rooted in concrete evidence.
DPS’s website claims that it has “more than 80 professional (employees).” Unlike professors at Marquette, DPS does not have a page that shows who is protecting us and what their qualifications are. This type of information is a useful tool for students wishing to learn more about the faculty at Marquette. For instance, before signing up for a class, I have always looked up the professor’s credentials, and doing so has provided me with ease in that I have an idea of the teaching style of the professor. Likewise, if students, faculty, parents and professors have better knowledge of those tasked with protecting Marquette, I believe this would instill a further sense of security and trust in the Marquette community.
Overall, I am asking for the following: Marquette University, please be transparent by explaining why we do not have commissioned police officers. Secondly, if there are legitimate reasons why we do not have commissioned police officers, please require DPS to add a page to the website about all employees and their credentials, just as the professors have their credentials posted online in the respective departments. The Marquette community has the right to an explanation and to be informed about the reasons behind certain choices. The Marquette community’s rights and safety should be considered the highest priority rather than being weighed on a scale of costs and benefits.
Senior, College of Arts & Sciences