The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies held a public meeting yesterday to hear comments from the public regarding the re-accreditation of the University’s Department of Public Safety.

Dean Tondiglia, assistant chief of the Kent State University Police Department and lead assessor for CALEA, led the ongoing assessment and evaluation of DPS, along with Geoffrey Ice of the Connecticut State Police Academy Alumni Educational Foundation. For the past two days, Todiglia and Ice have been meeting with DPS staff, reviewing internal procedure and riding along with DPS officers as part of the re-accreditation process.

Three people attended the public session today, including former University Prof. Douglas Smith. Smith told the assessors that he had made a complaint at the initial session in which DPS was first accredited in 2009, alleging that the department was in violation of federal law, which required DPS to retain a civilian oversight committee — a regularly elected advisory board of faculty and students designed to make suggestions for methods of discipline against police officers.

In 2009, the Michigan Daily found that student seats on the committee were often left vacant and that both students and faculty members of the committee were often appointed illegally, since the members of the committee needed to be elected. The report led to several reforms, including regular elections of students and faculty to the board.

Smith also referred to the recent case of a six-month delay in the reporting of the alleged possession of child pornography by former University of Michigan Health System resident Stephen Jenson. Citing this case and others, Smith argued that there is significant tension between DPS and UMHS security.

“Basically, the campus police and the hospital security hate each other’s guts,” Smith said.

Linda Martinson, a former Nursing student, also spoke at the event. Martinson said she spoke to assessors during DPS’s initial accreditation in 2009, but because of a trespass warning issued by the University, she was forced to call in her comments, rather than attend the public session in person.

Martison claimed that DPS officers who issued her trespass warning refused to give her a reason for the citation, which forced her to withdraw from the School of Nursing because she was unable to complete her schoolwork. She said former DPS Executive Director Greg O’Dell, who died last December, eventually lifted the warning without a formal hearing before he left the department.

Martinson argued that the department lacked independence from University administrators.

“Police are deputized to uphold the law, not the judgmental whims of administrators,” she said.

Martinson added that CALEA assessors misreported or failed to report many of her comments in 2009.

“I really question the value of CALEA’s accreditation process,” Martinson said.

Biology Prof. emeritus Thomas Moore, a member of the DPS oversight committee, spoke briefly at the meeting and said DPS officials have been responsive to the committee’s concerns and suggestions.

“My impression has been one of DPS professional people coming forward quite freely with us and discussing things that are going on,” Moore said.

Tondiglia interrupted both Smith and Martinson frequently to remind them of time limits and asked that the attendees of the meeting comment specifically on CALEA’s standards.

“Our purpose of being here is to allow people to speak to us directly and give us any insight they have on the agency as it relates to the standards to see if the agency is in compliance,” Tondiglia said in an interview after the event.

Though Tondiglia and Ice do not personally decide whether DPS should be re-accredited, they forward a report of their findings to CALEA’s commissioners, who will then review the report at a commission hearing in July.

DPS spokeswoman Diane Brown said the low turnout may be a good indicator of how the public thinks of the department.

“I actually think (the small turnout) says that people think we’re doing a fine job,” Brown said. “People will come if they’ve got a complaint to something like this.”

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