Do you feel safe now

Missouri Southerns department of pulbic safety commissioned four campus police officers Aug. 6.

Missouri Southern’s department of pulbic safety commissioned four campus police officers Aug. 6.

By now everyone is aware there is a new police car and four new commissioned officers patrolling the campus.

On Aug. 6, three full-time and one part-time commissioned officers were sworn in in University President Bruce Speck’s office. Before that, Ken Kennedy, director of public safety, was a one-man police force and was only on campus until 5 p.m. most days.

Kennedy was sworn in in April, after the March Board of Governors meeting established a campus police force. Kennedy said he has been fighting to establish a campus police department for seven-and-a-half of the eight-and-a-half years he’s been here.

Kennedy said now he has enough officers to really conduct business in an efficient way.

“The four new commissioned officers can do anything that any other commissioned officer in the state of Missouri can do,” Kennedy said.

Since Kennedy was sworn in, he has started working with the now-commissioned officers and has used them to perform investigations on campus.

Over the summer, the campus safety and security task force determined the addition of the four officers, the new police car and strengthening the emergency notification system was the most important addition the campus needed and allocated $75,000 to do so.

Aside from the $75,000 of general funds, Kennedy has also raised money and received grants from organizations like Partners in Prevention to pay for his equipment. The police car was bought used from the Webb City Police Department and almost all of the equipment in the car was donated.

“We are really doing this on the cheap,” Kennedy said. “The least amount of being spent as possible.”

The department didn’t even call for new uniforms, the officers own their weapons and their utility belts. The only things that really needed to be purchased were badges and bullets. But the officers did receive a pay raise. All four were already part of the Department of Public Safety, and there will be an addition of a new dispatcher.

“Changing the salary of the officers, adding a full-time dispatcher and getting a more robust campus emergency notification system that’s where a good chunk of the money went,” said Dr. Terri Agee, senior vice president.

There was also some money spent testing already existing members of the department to see who would be best qualified and mandatory training for the officers before being sworn in.

The main reason for the beefing up of the department was in case of an incident of an active shooter on campus, but that isn’t the only reason.

“There is also an added benefit of people having less fear of crime,” Kennedy said. “We can also give priority to cases we want to give priority to. If we have a burglary in the dorms it’s a big deal to us.

“It’s not like the one of 50 that happened in Joplin that day.”

Currently the officers’ jurisdiction is on campus only, but they can pursue suspects off campus for a crime that was witnessed on campus. For anyone being arrested, the officers will book them in to Joplin then transport them to the Jasper County jail in Carthage.

But traffic tickets and parking violations will still be paid in the business department.

“It’s worked well for us and the revenue goes back to the University instead of the county,” Kennedy said.

The force was originally created because of the recommendations by a state safety task force for all universities to take more precautions after the Virginia Tech shooting.

“It’s hard not to give money for advanced safety,” Agee said. “It’s a critical area that affects every single person on campus. You hope you never have to use any of it, but it’s much better being prepared.

“The only thing that’s changed is that we’re in a better position to respond should the worst occur.”