University Police to expand off-campus presence

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 7:09pm

Under a proposed collaboration with the Ann Arbor Police Department, officers with the University’s Division of Public Safety and Security could have joint authority to police off-campus neighborhoods heavily populated by students.

The initiative is one component of a set of recently announced University efforts designed to curb alcohol abuse at the University.

“Our philosophy — and the shift that we see is happening — is that we believe strongly that for University of Michigan students, we’re a resource wherever they are, especially in the density of the areas surrounding the campus,” said DPSS Executive Director Eddie Washington in an exclusive interview with The Michigan Daily on Wednesday.

Though DPSS officers could eventually have concurrent jurisdiction to enforce state laws in off-campus locations, such as a noise complaint at a fraternity, Washington said the division’s current efforts, beginning this Welcome Week, will focus more intensely on outreach.

“The Division of Public Safety and Security is now mobilizing in a way where we want to be more preventive, and the enforcement piece is more on the tail-end,” he said.

The Ann Arbor Police has generally had sole jurisdiction to enforce city ordinances and state laws off-campus, whereas units of DPSS — which includes the University of Michigan Police Department, as well as housing, hospital and museum security — police property owned by the University. The two departments have concurrent jurisdiction over roads that abut Ann Arbor and University property.

With the proposed arrangement, UMPD officers would be granted the ability to issue tickets or otherwise enforce laws of the State of Michigan, though city ordinances would remain solely under the jurisdiction of the AAPD.

Similar collaborations have already been in place at schools like Eastern Michigan University, which has long partnered with Ypsilanti authorities.

Washington said the aim is to allow University officers to interact with students wherever they are — which historically has not been the case.

“It’s more to be proactive,” he said. “So if you’re at the party, the idea is that we’ve already talked to you ahead of time.”

Washington said DPSS would like to host forums and be invited to the kinds of educational meetings typically handled by AAPD, including those hosted by Greek Life chapters, for example. The University, he said, aims to devote more resources to providing the kinds of proactive programs and informational materials AAPD didn’t typically have the resources to cover extensively.

“What we’re saying is we’re going to be in the room now, too,” he said.

He also hopes students will wield DPSS as a resource as well, citing an instance in which a fraternity reached out to DPSS for counsel on finding a credible firm to provide security at parties.

“The idea again isn’t to catch people, or give people tickets, or make life hard, it really is to make life safe,” said E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life.

Washington said the aim is achieving a collective “reduction in harm,” whether that’s hospital transports, injuries or instances of sexual misconduct. Since the focus is largely on proactive efforts, he said he wouldn’t expect to see the number of alcohol-related violations go up, even with additional law enforcement resources in the area.

He also said campus sentiment — how people feel about their relationship with campus police — is an important factor, too.

“It really is about community policing,” he said. “Prevention is about developing relationships, so we’ve shifted our resources to be more in the space before the incident.”