In a forum last night, the Department of Public Safety invited student leaders to pose questions to one of the candidates for the department’s top post.
With Bill Bess, the department’s current executive director, retiring in a few months, the search committee is in the process of finding someone to succeed him.
Laura Wilson, the director of Public Safety at Stanford University, was the lone finalist to attend last night’s forum in the Anderson Room of the Michigan Union.
The meeting was intended as an opportunity for students to interview the candidates and take part in the selection process, but just six students showed up, all of whom were leaders of student organizations. LSA Student Government president Leslie Zaikis was among those in attendance.
If she landed the position, Wilson said her goal would be “public safety, not law enforcement” adding that she believes “law enforcement is a tool in order to ensure public safety.”
“In the end, police officers are just people,” she said. “Service is what we’re about.”
A popular concern that students expressed regarding their safety on campus was the increased crime occurring in the “student ghetto,” or the area south of Hill Street.
Though it was made clear this area was not under the jurisdiction of DPS, and therefore the responsibility of the Ann Arbor Police, Wilson responded with her plan to address increased crime in general.
Wilson responded with the “three E’s”: engineering, including repairing streetlights; education such as making students aware of crime occurring around campus and making sure they report it quickly; and enforcement.
Wilson made no effort to act as if she had all the answers to the University’s crime situation.
“I think it’s somewhat arrogant to come in and say ‘This is what needs to be done’ as a new director,” she said. “Maybe things are OK and nothing needs to be changed.”
Zaikis said she like Wilson’s professional and modest approach.
“I think she’s great,” Zaikis said. “It’s refreshing to have such a personable candidate as chief of DPS. I was very impressed.”
Stacy Johnson, human resources official for Facilities and Operations and a member of the search committee, said there was not a yet a timeline for the decision, but added the search will move forward when the committee reconvenes in two weeks.