Kennesaw State’s Department of Public Safety and University Police received a national “department of the year” award early this month despite reports of internal crises within the department that led to the resignation of the former police chief.
The National Campus Safety Summit, a conference dedicated to public safety initiatives on college and university campuses, selected KSU’s police department as the top department in the nation among several of its affiliate universities.
The award came at the same time numerous reports of turmoil within the department surfaced and three months after Chief of Police Roger Stearns’ resignation on Aug. 1.
An anonymous complaint prompted an internal investigation into the department that revealed low employee morale and a high turnover rate. Human Resources officials found that more than 40 employees resigned from the department during Sterns’ three years as chief.
Documents also revealed a number of legal violations committed by campus police officers over the past year.
Claire Wagner, director of university news and communications at Miami University and a member of the NCSS’ advisory board, said board members weren’t aware of Stearns’ resignation or the department’s ethics concerns when they reviewed the applications.
Although the NCSS website says its “Board of Advisors provides direction, selects conference speakers and national award winners,” the other board members contacted by The Sentinel said they were not directly involved in the selection of KSU as department of the year.
The Summit selected the KSU police department in part for its combined efforts during consolidation with SPSU in 2015, in which two police departments and one safety department merged into the new DPS and UP.
The new department included an Office of Victim Services, Office of Emergency Management and Office of Public Safety Systems. Wagner said that she likes the “broad focus” of the three services working together, among many other efforts.
“I appreciate that KSU’s Office of Victim Services shows sensitive and respectful support for crime victims, with three full-time trained victim advocates who are credentialed through the National Organization of Victim Assistance National Credentialing Program and the State Victim Assistance Academy,” Wagner said.
“It is also important that the unit works cooperatively with the institution’s Title IX office, the Women’s Resources and Interpersonal Violence Prevention Center and KSU Police,” she continued.
The NUSS also noted the employment of new technology and educational safety opportunities as impressive efforts during the selection process. The department’s use of the LiveSafe App and conducting educational ventures such as the Crisis Coordinator Program and 150 other safety-related classes offered by the OEM.
The department also was recently named a 2017 Clery Compliance Program of the Year by the National Association of Clery Compliance Officers and Professionals, for providing training for all university employees in reporting criminal activities on campus.
The university administration has received criticism for choosing not to notify the campus of a student who threatened to kill everyone in his math class on Oct. 24, a decision some saw as a violation of the Clery Act. The student was arrested two days later.
Deputy Chief Edward Stephens is currently the acting chief of police. A national search for a new chief of police is currently underway.
The department will be honored at an award ceremony hosted at the summit’s annual conference on Feb. 20. Old Dominion University and Western Michigan University were among the award finalists.