Congressmen call for national campus safety center

Two congressmen are pushing for the creation of a national clearinghouse for campus security protocol and training.

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., called Thursday for a National Center for Campus Public Safety that would serve as a hub for “identification and dissemination of information, policies, procedures and best practices relevant to campus public safety,” according to the bill.

“Our nation’s colleges and universities play a large role in the development of our next generation of leaders and we should assist them in their efforts to keep our campuses and their students safe,” Scott said. “It is unrealistic to believe that all colleges have the expertise to individually develop effective, comprehensive plans.”

The Center to Advance, Monitor and Preserve University Security Safety Act of 2011 would establish one program to coordinate campus safety information and identify problem-solving models that work at colleges.

Campus Safety

Media Credit: Michelle Rattinger
Rep. Bobby Scott presents a plan for a national security center to standardize how University’s respond to crime on their campuses.

Colleges and universities nationwide currently report crime data to the Department of Education, in line with the Clery Act – a 1990 law that dictates procedures for recording campus crime statistics and issuing crime warnings. There is no federal center that dictates campus law enforcement practices.

“We should not be sending our children to school and they come back in a coffin,” Cummings said.

The act, with a $2.75 million annual tab, also calls for the proposed center to provide Congress and the Attorney General with a yearly report on its activities. The center’s director would have the authority to award grants for research on the top safety practices at higher education institutions.

The center would also link the Attorney General, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Education, state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as private groups and nonprofits that focus on campus safety and security policies under one umbrella.

“It’s a very easy concept, and you can’t really expect thousands and thousands to, you know, start of from scratch developing comprehensive plans,” Scott told The Hatchet.

The bill has support from Security on Campus, as well as the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, two of the largest campus safety organizations in the country.

University Police Department Chief Kevin Hay attended the press conference to support the initiative as an IACLEA representative. UPD is IACLEA-accredited.

Hay said a national center would allow security groups all over the country to “cross-pollinate.”

“Crime is not just a police problem, it’s a community problem,” he said. “What we want to do is harness the community nationwide.”

A national base with resources and standardized tried-and-tested practices would prevent scenarios where a campus police unit would have to “reinvent the wheel,” Hay added.

The bill is sitting with a subcommittee within the House Judiciary committee.

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