Public Safety Committee recommendations to be adopted, implemented

Brookings Hall (Photo: James Byard/Washington University)

Washington University in St. Louis is committed to meeting the safety needs of its entire community. Today, the university announced plans for how it will implement recommendations made recently by its Public Safety Committee.

The committee issued its report to university leadership in February. The group, composed of students, faculty, alumni and staff, was convened to examine public safety and policing on the Danforth Campus and in nearby neighborhoods. It thoroughly examined the current landscape of services and conducted an extensive survey to get feedback from the Danforth Campus community before preparing and presenting its report, which included several key recommendations that the university plans to implement in the near future.

“I believe the report reflects the needs of our large, diverse and dynamic Danforth Campus community,” said Henry S. Webber, executive vice chancellor for civic affairs and strategic planning. “The committee listened to our community members, and made sure to incorporate their thoughts, concerns and views into its report. Now, the work begins to translate the recommendations into action, and I am eager for us to get started.”
In its report, the committee emphasized the role of mental health, particularly in crisis situations, as part of the broader conversation about safety. To address this concern by the start of the fall 2021 semester, the university will provide protocols, training and resources to ensure that mental health professionals respond to calls received by the Washington University Police Department (WUPD) for mental health crises. 

This effort will require training and new protocols for the WUPD dispatch team, plus establishing a 24-hour on-call program staffed by mental health providers. The university is working to identify a community partner with a proven track record of excellence that can provide this service, and will share additional details before the start of the fall semester. The university also will review WUPD’s crisis intervention and mental health training program this winter.
“We recognize the importance and sensitivity of this 24-hour service for mental health crisis intervention,” said Kirk Dougher, associate vice chancellor for student support and wellness. “I’m glad the committee and members of our community highlighted this need, and I look forward to developing the model with a trusted community partner.”
Community policing on and around the Danforth Campus was also a central theme of the committee’s report. To ensure the campus’ public safety program continues to be grounded in ongoing outreach, dialogue and understanding, WUPD will strengthen its relationships with affinity groups, students living on campus, students living in surrounding neighborhoods and international students. Broader campuswide engagement efforts also will begin during fall orientation.
The committee noted the importance of public safety information being easily available and transparent. In response, WUPD will add new information to its website, including disaggregated vehicle and pedestrian stop data, departmental policies, a training overview and more details about its jurisdiction and the role of surrounding municipal police departments. WUPD will refine and update safety information on its website and in the WashU Safe app.
Finally, in an effort to build on the work of the Public Safety Committee, the university will create a standing committee to collect and review feedback from the Danforth Campus community and  evaluate the approach to safety and security in collaboration with WUPD and other departments.

Most elements of the university’s response will be finalized and begin to be implemented over the next four months, in time for the start of the fall semester. Following the initial rollout, the administration is committed to long-term change. 
“These interventions will not be one-time actions,” Webber said. “I think one of the most important points made by the committee, and echoed by members of our community, was the need for continuous evaluation and improvement of our public safety program. We look forward to making that a reality.”

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