Cultivating a Close-Knit Connection

Published: August 31, 2006

When Chief of Police Glenn Miller walks the Richard Stockton College campus in Pomona, N.J., he doesn’t go unacknowledged. One might assume he’s a well-known professor on this East Coast campus, as he receives friendly hellos, gets stopped for advice or is summoned for support day-to-day.

Miller’s central domain may not be in a biology lecture hall, but he serves as one of the university’s recognized role models.  This goodwill has enabled his department to implement a wide range of initiatives, from the installation of CCTV on campus to the successful recruitment of women into the department.

Perhaps it is because of this culture of cooperation, along with the main campus’ rural location, that crime is generally not an issue; the school actually has one of the lowest crime rates for a state college in New Jersey and is ranked No. 6 in the nation by US News & World Report among public liberal arts colleges.

Despite this, Miller and his department take precautions to ensure that criminal acts are kept at bay, all while developing and maintaining a trusting relationship with the community and supporting their educational mission.

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What is your overall philosophy on campus policing?

Miller: There are so many different versions of what people call campus or ‘community policing.’ One might consider it to be just going out and saying ‘hi’ to somebody. Although that is part of it, what I consider community policing is being able to get into your community. It is to work with the community, to get them to interact with you so when there are problems, they contact you. Then when you solve the problems, it’s more of an interactive situation.

The campus environment is ideally suited for community policing. Our campus is not a high crime area so we can provide high service. We are able to provide high interaction because we’re available to have that kind of resource.

We’re generally dealing with a population of 18- to 22-year-olds, and it’s a very impressionable population. If you use traditional policing on that group, it’s just not going to work. You have to have an educational mission because you’re really indoctrinating them in how to live in a community on their own.

About a year ago we partnered each campus complex director [resident hall advisor] with a police officer and said, ‘If you need something, go to this person. If you want to put together a program for your complex, here’s your contact.’ It’s been very effective in breaking down some barriers between police and housing.  Some of our officers and complex directors have become very good social friends, not just business acquaintances. It has improved the communication.

It seems your officers are benefiting by having the open communication between officers and the community and by having a diverse staff.  One-third of your force is women.  How do you achieve this?

Miller: I can’t really take credit for all of that. The department has developed a reputation for being very receptive to having women police officers. Not every police department has that reputation. We’re very family friendly here. One of our rules is if your family needs something, that comes first and we’ll worry about the rest. The officers understand that. I think word gets out and when there are women looking to get into law enforcement, this is a good place for them to come because the department has developed that kind of culture.

Many of the leaders in the department here, which would be half of my sergeants, are women. When you look at that, you realize you have a mentor who can guide you properly and possibly drive away some of the negative influences about women in policing. That’s a big deal to a young officer. I credit that to the women we have here.

What kinds of initiatives is your department currently implementing?

Miller: We’re vastly improving our CCTV [closed-circuit television]. We’ve just hired a consultant to handle that, and all of our new construction will have CCTV. That’s a big technological improvement on our campus.

Has there been any opposition to CCTV at Stockton?

Miller: Not yet, and that’s pretty interesting for this campus because traditionally, we haven’t had it here. When the issue was raised, it was like, ‘Yes, I guess we should. Everyone else has it, and we really should have it too.’ In the year 2006, it has become much more accepted than it would have been in 1996. It’s a fact of life. All of the cities have it; it’s the future of policing.

Now that everyone knows it’s there, no one seems to be concerned about it. They’re saying, ‘Finally, at least there is someone here just in case.’ Any new construction is for sure going to have CCTV. I anticipate that once everyone sees it in the new construction, they’re going to say, ‘Why didn’t we have it in the old construction?’

What prompted the CCTV installation, and where do you have the cameras installed?

Miller: I relate the start of CCTV back to 9/11. I think society as a whole changed when surveillance equipment just became more acceptable. Every subway has it, and many street corners in New Jersey have it. Technology has changed so much that it’s easier and more affordable to install systems than it was five or 10 years ago.

Any place we would install a camera would only be in a public location. We obviously never install it in a private location, like an office, unless we have a court order. In a public area, in New Jersey at least, there really isn’t an expectation of privacy. We also just completed construction of an area of the main campus. All that public area is under CCTV, which is the first interior CCTV in the academic buildings that we have.

How else will you utilize surveillance technology?

Miller: We have one location on campus, a long walkway next to a lake, where we will install four CCTV cameras. Although it’s well lit at nighttime and we’ve never had a problem, obviously there is still a concern. It’s a very rustic setting out there, and someone could do something you might not be able to stop. With the cameras, it will save us from having to put an officer walking back and forth. Not that we have a high crime situation, but it will certainly put everyone at ease, and officers won’t have to spend time keeping watch on what’s going on out there.

We’ll eventually save resources when we get enough of the CCTV. We’re in the process of determining if we’re going to monitor them, which ones we’re going to monitor and if we’ll monitor them at this police department. We’re still in that decision-making process.

What do you believe is your biggest accomplishment at Richard Stockton College?

Miller: I think our department’s biggest accomplishment has been our ability to develop a trusting relationship with the community. Public safety and police departments depend on the trust of the community. They trust that we’re going to support their educational mission. We’ve spent a lot of time developing and maintaining that trust, and I think it has paid dividends.

When the student organizations have meetings, we’re the first to be at those meetings. They are the first to invite us. I’m not sure it was always like that. We reached out and said, ‘Hey, we want to work with you.’ That became our philosophy, and now I think they all want to work with us.

For example, last year the students wanted to have a bonfire in support of the athletic teams. The student senate came to me and said, ‘Chief, we want to have a bonfire. What do you think?’ I said, ‘Let me check, and we’ll find out how to do it legally and safely, and then you’ll have our support.’ And we did. We got the right permits; we had certain safety measures put into place. There were 300 or 400 of them out there eating hot dogs and hamburgers. It was a great time. We’ve had two other bonfires since then.

That’s the kind of thing I don’t think they would have approached us about several years ago. We’ve developed that trust where they know that if it can be done, we’re going to do it for them.

Mara Lazdins is a contributor to Campus Safety Magazine.

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

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Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series