After months of investigating flaws in the collaboration between University security departments, the University has taken the final steps in confirming its newly configured Division of Public Safety and Security.
The University announced Monday new names for departments in the Division of Public Safety and Security, an overarching public safety agency that will now oversee the formerly distinct University Police, Housing Security and Hospital Security units.
DPSS now comprises four departments: the University of Michigan Police
Department, formerly the Department of Public Safety; Hospitals and Health
Centers Security Services, formerly Hospital Security; and Housing Security and Safety Services, formerly Housing Security; and University Security Services, which includes the Office of Emergency Preparedness, Security Systems and Technology Management, Art Museum security, Kelsey Museum security and contracted security.
Now the four department directors all report to the DPSS executive director, who is currently interim director Joe Piersante.
Calls for such an agency came after a report that child pornography was found on a University Hospital computer was reported to University Police six months after the incident was reported to Hospital Security.
Later in April 2012, University President Mary Sue Coleman and the University’s Board of Regents hired security consulting firm Margolis Healy & Associates for an external review of the communication issues that took place between the University Police and Hospital Security.
The report, released by the firm in October, exposed a lack of cooperation and communication among the former Department of Public Safety, Housing Security and Hospital Security. Margolis Healy & Associates suggested reorganization of University security forces following miscommunication that prolonged reporting of the case.
Piersante, who also acts as the University Police chief, said in a statement that the name changes should make clear the missions of the DPSS units.
“We expect the revised names to help the University community better recognize the roles and responsibilities of the women and men in these departments,” Piersante said.
The Margolis Healy report noted that individuals did not often know whether they were talking to a security officer or a police officer.
All DPSS departments report to the executive director, who then reports to Coleman. Piersante is acting as the interim executive director until a national search for a permanent replacement is completed. He has already met with the search committee, and said the job posting for the position should be released by the end of the month.
Piersante said in this transition, DPSS has focused on improving communication between the departments.
“Our transition to a new division has been progressing as we work with our campus colleagues to accomplish the behind-the-scenes work such as creating budgets and moving employees from auxiliary units into a campus division, while we continue to fulfill our daily services to the University community,” Piersante said.
Security department directors will now attend the weekly meetings to discuss major events and trends in crime. Similar meetings were previously held by UMPD. Additionally, the former DPS database, known as “Security Center,” is now available to all DPSS employees. The Margolis Healy report mentioned that a lack of universal access to a database was a problem.
Piersante said DPSS has already seen positive change.
“A lot of work was done to unify all separate security elements on campus,” Piersante said. “Communication has absolutely improved.”
—Daily News Editor Taylor Wizner contributed to this report.