When it Comes to Campus Safety, Non-Cooperation Can Kill

Don’t wait for a tragedy to happen on your campus before addressing your internal and external relationship issues.

“As the world sends its sympathy to the victims of the recent terror attacks in Brussels, the most fervent prayer to be uttered for Belgium itself is that it finally wakes up. The incompetent Belgian government, its bureaucratic law enforcement agencies and its half-hearted intelligence services deserve as much blame for the slaughter as the murderers.”

This is a quote from a Newsweek editorial that was published a few days after the March 22 terrorist attacks in Belgium that killed more than 30 people. The article claims the “Belgium Bumblers” – through inefficiency, ineptitude and a lack of cooperation among the French-speaking and Flemish-speaking agencies in the country – have failed to do basic legwork to detect and respond to terrorist cells in Brussels, putting all of Europe in danger. To make matters worse, according to the article, not only do the Belgians not cooperate with each other, they don’t work well with their international allies either.

Does this sound like your campus’ internal and external relationships? I hear about the challenges of non-cooperation quite often from our readers.

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Sometimes campus police and victim advocates don’t get along or just don’t communicate. Maybe the head of the communications department doesn’t like or doesn’t trust the judgment of the emergency manager and prevents him or her from quickly disseminating an emergency notification. Perhaps IT doesn’t get along with the head of campus security, which puts a roadblock in front of much-needed security technology upgrades.

Government agencies, hospitals, K-12 districts and institutions of higher education aren’t the only ones that experience this challenge. I’ve seen this problem rear its ugly head in business, non-profit organizations and private groups.

A network engineer friend of mine told me about the frustration he experienced recently when two departments of a large, multi-national corporate client of his wouldn’t work together despite the fact that both needed the same solution. Why? Because both department heads didn’t like each other. My friend ended up installing the same solution separately in both departments, which cost the client thousands of dollars more than if the two departments had worked together.

I’m constantly surprised by the petty feuds and turf battles that occur in our occupations as adults, much like they did when we were children.

At least in my friend’s case, the cost was only monetary. Of course, I’ll bet this level of non-cooperation is also affecting other aspects of the business, resulting in poor customer service and missed opportunities for efficiencies and improvements. That being said, it’s likely no lives were lost.

However, what happened in Belgium on March 22 shows that personality conflicts, when they occur in security and public safety, can have deadly consequences.

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That’s why it’s so important for everyone to act like adults. I know I’m stating the obvious, but it seems as though lately some folks have forgotten this basic tenet. There is a lot of unacceptable, childish, bullying behavior happening right now among adults, both in Belgium and in our own country, which is creating barriers rather than bridges. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking this behavior is acceptable. It’s not, and if you engage in this type of behavior, your community will pay dearly for it down the road.

Campus police chiefs, security directors, emergency managers and other security executives must be skilled facilitators/mediators who can bring on-campus and off-campus stakeholders together. School, hospital and university public safety, security and emergency management departments should have good working relationships with the following organizations and individuals: local police, fire, emergency management, social services, counseling, facilities, campus administration, C-suite, nursing, faculty, staff, students, parents, patients, IT, HR, PR, news media, student services, district superintendent offices, neighbors, local businesses, the Secret Service, FBI, DHS, admissions, emergency department staff, vendors, EMS, peer institutions, etc. The list could go on and on.

Yes, personality conflicts are inevitable to a certain extent. Despite these challenges, hospital, school and college protection professionals, administrators, faculty, clinicians and staff, as well as their off-campus partners, must rise above them and look for what we have in common: the desire for a safe and healthy campus environment.

Don’t be like Belgium and wait for a tragedy to happen before addressing your internal and external relationship issues. Do it now.

Photo via Thinkstock

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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.

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