FBI to Colleges: We Want to Work With You

The FBI Campus Liaison Initiative can help college and university public safety departments with investigations, threat assessments, incident response and more.

When an incident occurs, FBI agents and many others in law enforcement are fond of saying, “a command post is no place to exchange business cards.” Indeed, whether the emergency involves an active shooter, natural disaster or something else, if a campus’ relationships with federal, state and local law enforcement aren’t already established, precious hours can be lost developing the appropriate level of trust on the fly.

To address this challenge, the FBI created the Campus Liaison Initiative in 2008 so that the bureau could partner with institutions of higher learning to combat the threat of international and domestic terrorism. Now, more than two years later, campuses are experiencing the benefits of the program.

“Whenever I get information or something is posted anonymously on a Web site that may be threatening in nature, I can forward it to [the FBI liaison], and they’ll take it from there and follow up with a lot better resources than I could ever get together,” Wesleyan University Director of Public Safety Dave Meyer tells Campus Safety.

Although Meyer sings the praises of his local field division in New Haven, Conn., there are other Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) in the remaining 55 field divisions located throughout the nation that are also eager to partner with the higher education community.

Nonsworn Departments Receive Information on Threats

Unfortunately, the biggest challenge to the program is the fact that some campuses are still reluctant to work with the FBI.

“We’ve worked very hard over the years to overcome our historical reputation,” says FBI Supervisory Special Agency Jennifer Gant. “Whether it was true back then or not, I don’t know. I wasn’t working then. However, I am working on it now, and I can tell you the FBI honestly wants to bridge this gap to develop relationships [with colleges and universities], work in an environment of trust and become partners with campuses. My greatest hope is that all of the campuses believe me and will come forward to work with us.”

In the past, one significant concern many campuses had with the FBI was its inability or unwillingness – perceived or real – to share information on threats with nonsworn security departments. Gant says, however, that except for the eGuardian program, which is only available to sworn police departments, the Campus Liaison Initiative doesn’t differentiate between campus public safety agencies.

“We understand that whatever agency is responsible for protecting the campus, it doesn’t matter if they are sworn or nonsworn, or they carry weapons or they don’t,” she adds. “If they are charged with the protection of the campus, they are important to us.”

For nonsworn departments that don’t have access to eGuardian, Gant says the local FBI liaison or a local sworn agency can input the information on behalf of the department.

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About the Author

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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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