Eddie Washington, Jr. hopes to resolve serious communication issues that were revealed between University Police and security agencies on campus.

University of Michigan

Washington was recently appointed executive director of the Division of Public Safety and Security, a department created last fall. University Police Chief Joe Piersante served as the unit’s interim director.

Washington comes to the University as an experienced security professional, having served as director of the Michigan State Police, as a homeland security adviser to the University and, most recently, as a senior security professional at Dow Chemical.

He said he’s focused on instituting a blanketed security approach, with a focus on implementing administrative policies that will improve communication between departments. Drawing on his experience with the Michigan State Police, Washington said data and feedback is crucial to DPSS’s role at the University, describing the division as a “clearinghouse” where senior officials will be able to take concerns from police and security chiefs and create multi-faceted strategies for education, training, as well as environmental and infrastructure design.

One of Washington’s biggest priorities is to ensure that there are open lines of communication between law enforcement officials and the community. Though most would think law enforcement data is about crime mapping and incident statistics, Washington said it’s more than that.

“When you think about data, you think about numbers and lines,” he said. “I think about relationships. So, when you have relationships with a broader, traditional and non-traditional folks, in law enforcement those are your information streams.”

Washington said he stands in more of a strategic, visionary role than the University’s police and security chiefs, who deal with day-to-day operations.

“We feel like there are opportunities for us to fill some gaps in a broader way, and by educating our community in areas like workplace violence, or an active shooter,” Washington said. “In each one of those areas … education and training is being done, but it’s not necessarily unified, and it’s not a blended approach to safety and security.”

Nonetheless, Washington said he will remain transparent and will develop cross-department strategies.

Working with multiple units, including departments in the Division of Student Affairs, Washington said there’s opportunity for a more consortium-based approach to community policing.

“I think that education is always a two-way street,” Washington said. “I think there’s always opportunity for us to learn from the community: what their needs are, what the trends are, and make sure that we’re equipped to contribute as part of a broader multidisciplinary approach to problem solving.”

Washington said it’s important to look at emergency preparedness as a University-wide responsibility. He said DPSS will work with unit heads to develop security plans that fit their specific needs.

He wants to take a more in-depth look at building access and the protection of property, both physical and intellectual.

During the day, entrances to most University buildings — with the exception of residence halls and some parts of the medical campus — are largely unrestricted. Washington said it’s important for people to be aware of their surroundings as to deter troublesome visitors, but noted that there may be other options for the University to further protect its assets and community.

Some of the possibilities Washington offered for additional security included a requirement that Mcards be worn at all times, or the installation of additional video surveillance.

Currently, the University employs relatively few surveillance cameras. In the past, student and civic groups have rallied around the idea of limiting surveillance at the University and in Ann Arbor.

Though he understands individuals in the University community may have concerns about video surveillance, Washington said the University should be prepared to implement more video cameras if there’s tolerance for them on campus.

Both the DPSS and Washington’s role were created after a report from the security consulting firm Margolis Healy & Associates exposed serious communication problems among University Police and other security agencies on campus. The report was compiled after faults in communication resulted in a six-month delay in reporting a Medical resident Stephen Jenson’s possession of child pornography to law enforcement.

Even though the report provides recommendations as to how the University should improve communication among security agencies following the Jenson incident, Washington said he doesn’t plan on reflecting on past problems.

“I’m looking forward,” Washington said. “I’m accountable for what happens now. I believe that the leaders in place, and to come, now will have that same opinion.”

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