On this episode of CampusAux I sit down with Police Chief John Venuti from Virginia Commonwealth University and take a deep dive into how to keep your campus safe including: embracing new technologies like mobile apps and advanced video surveillance, connecting with the off-campus community, the importance of data analysis, police legitimacy, implementing a perception of safety survey (and receiving a 96.4% safety rating from students!), and some great advice for a new campus safety director.
Chief Venuti previously oversaw the homicide division as a Major in the Richmond PD prior to joining VCU in 2010 as their Chief of Police. He was recently named Campus Safety Director of the Year by Campus Safety Magazine.
LISTEN TO CHIEF VENUTI TALK ABOUT…
Partnerships and collaboration, innovation, and technology as the major contributors to VCU’s success
“We are constantly working with everyone here at VCU both internally and externally and I think that that’s really important in creating a safe environment I’ve got 92 police officers here the VCU police department and there’s only so much that sounds like a lot but it’s really not when you talk about you know 24 hour a day coverage 7days a week, so we are constantly looking to engage with different groups we’ve got lots of different initiatives to really try and get 50,000 you know we got a community of over 50,000 people here at VCU, 32,000 students and over 18,000 faculty and staffs so what we really trying to do each and every day here is to get those 50,000 sets of eyes and ears out there working for us and I think only when that happens does it make VCU one of the safest institution in the United States.”
Pioneering the LiveSafe app
“I constantly tell people here that am unable to address the things that I’m un aware of and live safe gives community members a way to make us aware of some of the little or smaller stuffs that’s going on here, we get all sort of complains through that medium we’ve had indecent exposure complaints, we’ve had noise complaints, we’ve heard complains of people blocking handicap zones and I think one of the things that you know really helped us successes in our partnership and collaboration is our level of responsiveness and we have a high level of responsiveness here at VCU if you make us aware of something you are going to see our response and you going to get an outcome and I think at the end of the day you know that gives everyone a higher perception of safety.”
The importance of data analysis
“…it’s a critical piece especially in policing because I think with everything that’s going on nationally no longer can the police just tell people that they are doing something, the police have to tell people that they are doing something and then they got to support it with reliable, credible data.”
Reinforcing police legitimacy
“I tell all of my peers across the country that if you in police department in this day and age every minute of everyday should be spent trying to restore the trust that has been fractured and lost with policing across the country.”
Implementing a Perception of Safety Survey
“We do our perception of safety survey at VCU two times a year and our most recent survey result 96.4% of students, faculty and staff that were surveyed at both of our campuses reported either feeling safe or very safe and I think that you know that is my one performance indicator that really establishes there’s a high level of trust with this police department because if they wasn’t there’s no way that we be up at 96.4 we’ve over the past 5 years reduced officer involved in the use of force by 81% from 75 incidences down to 14 incidences last year.”
Advice to a new Director of Security
“Community feedback is key. I have learned over the past 32 years if you are separated, detached or isolated from the feedback of your community—I don’t care if its municipal, I don’t care if it’s a campus environment—you are history. And I constantly tell everyone it’s like walking up to the front window of the police department, looking at the window and saying everything is great, I don’t see anything. I have an advisory committee on diversity and I think within the police department I do a really good job of hitting most of the students, but I have trouble hitting some of the under represented groups of students here. And some of those under represented groups are ethnic-based, some are religion-based, some are sexual orientation-based and so I created the diversity community to help me bridge the gap to some of these smaller groups and I think it’s just another example of really involving members of this community who want to get involved to help me accomplish the things that we are trying to accomplish.”
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
LiveSafe mobile app
President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing Report
VCU Police web site
National Center for Campus Public Safety
“Managing External Relations and Off Campus Conduct” webinar (YouTube)
Get in touch with Chief Venuti at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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