‘Can’t We All Just Get Along?’

Although it has been nearly 15 years since Rodney King uttered these infamous words, this same quote seems equally applicable in today’s world of complicated professional relationships. Campus relationships are no exception.

Whether we’re administrators, facilities managers, law enforcement officers, police chiefs, security directors, association officials, IT directors, risk managers or, in my case, journalists, distrust of those we perceive as “others” often clouds our perceptions. When we’re in a diverse community like that of a campus, it is easy to assign negative attributes to those who have different perspectives, are from different organizations or departments, or come from different backgrounds. Misunderstandings are bound to happen and can get blown out of proportion.

Fortunately, campuses are making significant progress in moving away from the “us vs. them” mentality. It is encouraging to see so many in our community realizing we must work together. This point was driven home to me last month when I attended the Northeast Colleges and Universities Security Association (NECUSA) 53rd annual conference in Atlantic City, N.J., and the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) 48th annual conference in Orlando, Fla.

At IACLEA, a speaker commenting on recent case law stressed the importance of “sincere, thoughtful, educated and constant dialogue” among campus law enforcement, student and academic affairs professionals, and counsel. No longer is it acceptable for campus security management to be relegated to the sidelines, awaiting direction on issues that affect campus policing but are clearly beyond administrators’ scope of expertise. If a public safety department gets pushed aside during the planning phase, the institution might soon pay a significant penalty when a court decides its security policies are insufficient.

At NECUSA, another speaker urged attendees to develop relationships with reporters and provide them with accurate information so they are not required to go to less reliable sources. Being a journalist myself, I was very pleased to hear this comment. Transparency can build goodwill and reduce the suspicion some in the media have of law enforcement and institutions in general.

On the facilities management side of things, I’ve been hearing more and more campus police chiefs and security directors say they are now getting involved in new construction projects. This enables them to guide architects and engineers to specify equipment that integrates with the rest of their campuses, resulting in greater efficiencies, safety and security.

And what about our colleagues in local, state and federal law enforcement? From what I’ve seen, information from the feds and other traditional police agencies is being more effectively shared. Additionally, at last month’s International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) University and College Police Section meeting, FBI Assistant Director Lou Quijas asked for more campus security input and participation. Does this mean things are perfect? Of course not – but things are better because more stakeholders are sitting at the table.

I’m not naïve enough to think all campus administrators, law enforcement officers, associations, journalists, agencies and members of the public will be able to hold hands and sing Kumbaya anytime soon. Still, I do believe we can continue moving forward.

Petty personal agendas, drama, cultural differences, miscommunication and politics should not keep us from doing our jobs. Let’s keep our eyes on the prize. In fact, if we get to know the “other” side, we might find we have more in common than we originally thought.

Robin Hattersley Gray is executive editor of Campus Safety Magazine and can be reached at robin.gray@bobit.com.

For the complete version of this article, please refer to the July/August 2006 issue of Campus Safety Magazine.

About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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