It’s About Relationships

Princeton Chief of Police Steven Healy understands the power of personal interaction. By collaborating with his campus’ numerous stakeholders via community policing and one-on-one communications, he and his officers have improved the department’s stature, as well as upgraded many of the technologies required to properly protect this prestigious university.

Like most other campus police chiefs and security directors, Princeton University Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police Steven Healy’s constituents are many. They include students, faculty and staff; his own department’s sworn and nonsworn officers and civilian employees; local and federal law enforcement; other campus police departments through the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA), of which he is president; and Princeton University’s surrounding community. Healy knows he must keep the communication lines open and operating with all of these individuals so that he and his department can be effective.

But what is Healy’s most significant area of focus is also his biggest challenge, considering 25 percent of his campus’ student population turns over every year. Despite these hurdles, he and his department are able to keep their fingers on the pulse of Princeton.

What concerns have given your department and campus the most difficulty lately?

Healy: One of the things that has been a constant, at least since I’ve been with campus policing, is high-risk drinking. Obviously, there are so many other incidents that derive from the abuse of alcohol. Sexual assault on campus is one of the issues I’m really concerned with. I can’t say the numbers are going up or down. They are pretty steady.

But how do we get the message out to men because they are the primary perpetrators? That’s really the group we need to be reaching out to. We need to make sure than men understand how they need to conduct themselves when they are in situations, especially where alcohol is involved.

Prescription drug abuse is also a major issue, but every class that comes in is a younger part of a generation that brings their own issues with them. We’re going to be together for the next four years, and we want to be able to nurture those relationships so they trust us and are willing to communicate with us.

What steps have you taken to address these challenges?

Healy: We have fully embraced the philosophy of community policing. Community policing in my department is not an option. It’s not an add-on. It’s not a nice thing to do. It’s mandatory for everyone to be involved in either a residential college, some student association or an athletic group. Each of our officers must do a minimum of three activities a year.

We’re fortunate at Princeton because our students during their first two years live in a residential college. They are basically in the same area and eat their meals there. A lot of activities happen there, so it makes it easier for us to build a relationship with that group.

The next thing we are going to do is go to a geographical public safety model, where the same officers are assigned to the same area for an extended or permanent period of time. What this does is give people in that particular area officers they know. It helps facilitate problem solving because officers understand what some of the unique challenges are in particular areas of the campus. Officers know the staff and faculty, and can easily identify those who don’t belong in the area.

It’s much easier to do your job when you know people rather than if you are viewed as an occupying army.

How does your department work with Princeton athletic teams?

Healy: We have a number of officers assigned as liaisons. In many cases, the officers travel to away games with them. Officers spend time talking to them about issues that are germane to athletic teams.

Also, I go to a coaches meeting at the beginning of the year and meet as many of the coaches as I can. Many of the teams have invited my officers and me to talk to the teams about the microscope they are under. We try to help them understand that no matter what they do – good or bad – it always reflects on the team.

We talk to them about looking out for one another. If they find themselves in a situation where one person has either been drinking too much or doing something that is unacceptable, their teammates should handle it so it doesn’t go further than it needs to go.

In addition to your focus on community policing, you’ve also made some significant changes to the department’s facilities. Could you describe those improvements?

Healy: In October of 2005 we moved into our new building, which was a major renovation of an existing building. As part of that transition we were able to upgrade some new systems. While we haven’t completely deployed video monitoring on campus, we are embarking on that now. We also have a state-of-the-art radio system, and we have complete communication with every municipal agency within a 20-mile radius.

I feel pretty good about our resources. Obviously, we don’t get everything we want. But when we’ve been able to make the argument for having a new system, the university has been very supportive.

With many universities, radio interoperability with surrounding jurisdictions is a problem. Is it an issue for Princeton?

Healy: No, it is not. That’s not to say that we are completely interoperable, but we are much further along than we ever were. My officers can talk through a patch with any of the other local agencies.

We are also in the process of implementing a mapping solution. The way our computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system works; if a call comes in, we can map both our normal business calls and 9-1-1 calls. Not only does dispatch have the person talking on the phone, they have a visual indication of where the call is coming from. Also, once the officer is dispatched, you can watch the officer responding to the call.

Your upgraded radios and CAD system certainly must help you accurately track incidents on campus. Some schools, however, have had problems with their Clery reporting, especially with incidents handled by outside jurisdictions. Has this been the case with your department?

Healy: We haven’t experienced any confusion. When I first got here, I sat down with all of the chiefs in the local areas and made sure they understood what Clery is all about and what I needed from them. Every year, I send the letters out to them and, without fail, we get them back in a timely fashion.

We have a very strong relationship. We’re all in the county chief association, so we meet on a monthly basis. My deputy was the former chief in the borough, so that helps facilitate those relationships as well.

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?

Healy: It has been the perception our community has about our department. I think we are well respected. People believe that our department members are professional.

One of the first things we did when I got here was articulate a list of core values. We talk about those in everything we do. I believe the community believes that we believe in our core values.When we slip up sometimes because we are human, people hold us accountable. That is OK. But I think, for the most part, people think we do a great job.

Robin Hattersley Gray is executive editor of Campus Safety Magazine and can be reached at

For the unabridged version of this article, please refer to the March/April 2007 issue of Campus Safety Magazine. To subscribe, go to

If you appreciated this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!

About the Author

robin hattersley headshot

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.

Leading in Turbulent Times: Effective Campus Public Safety Leadership for the 21st Century

This new webcast will discuss how campus public safety leaders can effectively incorporate Clery Act, Title IX, customer service, “helicopter” parents, emergency notification, town-gown relationships, brand management, Greek Life, student recruitment, faculty, and more into their roles and develop the necessary skills to successfully lead their departments. Register today to attend this free webcast!

Get Our Newsletters
Campus Safety Conference promo