In a move toward recovery, Eastern Michigan University has hired Greg O’Dell, deputy chief of the Ann Arbor Police Department, to head its campus police department.
O’Dell replaces former Public Safety Director Cindy Hall, who was forced to retire after the university came under fire for telling the campus community there was no evidence of foul play in the death of student Laura Dickinson in December of 2006.
Campus police originally called her death an accident after she was found dead on her dorm room floor. The case is now being investigated as a murder.
EMU President John Fallon and Jim Vick, vice president for student affairs, were also ousted as a result of the scandal.
O’Dell will start his new job Feb. 7.
“I look forward to the challenge of moving the Department of Public Safety forward with the ultimate goal of becoming one of the best police and safety departments in the country,” O’Dell said in a written statement.
O’Dell, an Eastern Michigan alum, said being open with the campus community was his main goal.
“We need to understand, and fully comply with the Clery laws. Absolutely,” he said at an introductory press conference yesterday. “The way to be successful as a department is to be open with citizens and students.”
The Department of Education fined the university $357,500 for violating 13 counts of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act during the Dickinson incident. The act states that a college must provide “timely and annual information about campus crime and security policies.”
Along with establishing a transparent department, O’Dell seeks to reduce the number of break-ins on campus. He also said, however, that EMU sometimes gets an undeserved reputation as being an unsafe campus.
“There is a high number of break-ins at this university, but in most every other category Eastern Michigan actually is average or below average,” he said.
O’Dell was hired in a national search after Hall’s retirement.
Donald Loppnow, provost and executive vice president of the university, said O’Dell emerged at the top of the list for many reasons.
“We chose Greg O’Dell partly because of his leadership style and his creative thinking, but also because he is so familiar with the area, having been a graduate of Eastern Michigan,” he said.
Loppnow also said O’Dell’s experience in several different areas of police work was a major factor in his appointment.
O’Dell has served on the AAPD almost continually since 1988. He served a brief stint in Monroe, Mich. in 1996.
O’Dell’s decision to leave will be a loss for the Ann Arbor Police Department, but a gain for the university, said AAPD Lt. Michael Logghe.
“I’ve worked with Greg for about 20 years, and I think he’s a perfect fit for Eastern Michigan,” Logghe said. “He is very professional, and a great administrator, which is really something they need right now.”
Logghe said O’Dell will be a great fit because he has experience working with college students.
“You’re going to see me in dorms, talking to students about safety,” O’Dell said. “I am going to be actively involved, and I want this department to work as a team.”