Knapp taps safety and security ‘czar’

University President Steven Knapp announced last Friday that a White House National Security official would be the University’s new senior associate vice president for safety and security.

Darrell Darnell is tasked with the “development and management of the Safety and Security Program” for the Foggy Bottom, Mount Vernon and Virginia Science and Technology campuses. Darnell was one of the founding members of the Center for Homeland Defense and Security and was appointed by President Barack Obama last November to his White House post.

Darnell is coming into the University during a period of transition in the University Police Department. Former Chief of Police Dolores Stafford stepped down last month after 18 years of service and was replaced by Executive Assistant Chief of Police James Isom on an interim basis. In his new position, Darnell will have a significant role in choosing the next police chief.

Darnell told The Hatchet he plans on working with students and the GW community in his new position. He acknowledged that last year’s death of sophomore Laura Treanor may lead him to evaluate the University’s safety policies.

“I’m going to look at all of our policies,” Darnell said, in a response to a question about Treanor and alcohol policies. “But I think education is the key.”

Darnell – who begins June 7 – said he will spend his first months getting to know students and the University before making changes.

“I think the first thing to do is to get to know the people,” he said. “And then I will assess what the procedures and policies are.”

Besides developing a security program for the University’s three largest campuses, Darnell will also oversee the University Police Department, the Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management and the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, which includes laboratory and residential housing.

Darnell said he hopes to have town hall meetings to learn more about what concerns students have. He is taking over during a period when students have become more aware of crime on campus.

Last Thursday Metropolitan Police Department Commander Matthew Klein said total robberies in Foggy Bottom – part of the Second District – are down but, according to MPD data provided by Klein, as of May 11 the number of unarmed robberies has increased by 39 percent this month compared to a year ago. In the span of two weeks last month, five Crime Alerts have been sent to the University community, informing students and staff about a reported aggravated assault, theft, unlawful entry, assault with a knife, and sexual assault.

The announcement came during the Board of Trustees meeting in the Elliott School of International Affairs. Darnell gave a short speech after Knapp’s introduction, saying he is excited for his new position and is looking forward to working with professors in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences after spending time in the Gulf of Mexico trying to stem the oil flow there.

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