In response to organizational issues discovered in the aftermath of last year’s child pornography case at the University Hospital, University Police, Housing Security, Hospital Security and other public safety agencies have been reorganized into a larger organization called the Division of Public Safety and Security.
The new Division of Public Safety and Security, which was announced at the University’s Board of Regents meeting in Flint on Friday, will be responsible for all security and public safety concerns at the University. The University announced that Joe Piersante, current executive director of DPS, will assume the positions of director of DPSS as well as police chief until a permanent director can be found.
The newly formed position of University Police Chief will report to the executive director, who will report to University President Mary Sue Coleman.
Before the announcement, the University’s various security organizations cooperated in campus safety operations, but were independently managed.
Regent Laurence Deitch (D–Bingham Farms), the board’s chair, said in a statement that campus safety is one of the University’s top priorities.
“The safety and security of our University family is sacrosanct. We must be and we will always be fiercely vigilant when it comes to campus safety and security,” he said.
President Coleman said in a statement that the new DPSS will ensure campus remains safe.
“We’ve followed a challenging road to reach this point, but I see a clear path forward,” Coleman said. “I am confident we will continue to see significant improvements, in part because of our shared vision for the future of safety and security on our campus.”
Regent Olivia Maynard (D–Goodrich) said in an interview after Friday’s Flint meeting that the board is taking security very seriously in light of the Jenson incident.
“There wasn’t good coordination and sometimes it takes a pretty tough thing to happen for everyone to realize that coordination has to be replaced,” Maynard said. “I know we’re all serious about it, everyone.”
Maynard added that the new system will lead to greater unity among University safety programs.
“All the various agencies that have some kind of law application are all going to work together,” she said.
In regards to the search for a University Police Chief, she said Piersante will continue to serve as interim leader before he has the opportunity to retire.
“He’s ready to retire, so that’s good, and he will do that and there will be a national search for someone to come in,” she said.
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said in a statement that Piersante “has made no decision about when he may retire.”
—Daily News Editor Paige Pearcy contributed reporting from Flint.
Story updated: This story was updated at 1:50 a.m. Sunday with comment from University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald.