Policed campus a good idea

University takes new action for safety

University takes new action for safety

[editor’s note: Ken Kennedy is the Director of DPS]

Missouri Southern State University has a long, prestigious legacy and has produced graduates who excel in every walk of life. However, MSSU has been lacking in one area up until this year. On March 14, 2008, the MSSU Board of Governors passed a resolution establishing a campus police department. This action allows MSSU to have certified/commissioned law enforcement officers on campus in compliance with Chapter 174 of the Revised Missouri Statutes (as with most other major public universities in our country).

Since the Virginia Tech incident, the governors of many states, including Missouri, have utilized task forces to determine what would make institutions of higher learning safer. The Missouri Governor’s Task Force recommended armed, commissioned officers on the campuses of colleges and universities in Missouri who are able to stop an active shooter. In addition, MSSU established a Campus Safety and Risk Management Task Force, who also, among other things, recommended commissioned officers on campus.

As with any start-up agency, growth has been slow thus far. On April 18, 2008, I was sworn in by Judge and Board of Governor’s President, Dwight Douglas as MSSU’s first police officer. On May 18, 2008, confirmation was received that an Originating Agency Number was issued by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, allowing MSSU officers to access the statewide computer system, MULES. On June 16, 2008, the Joplin City Council voted to approve a mutual aid agreement with the MSSU Department of Public Safety. This agreement allows for officers at MSSU to handle their own criminal offenses, as well as allowing them to “backup” Joplin Police Department in emergency situations within the Joplin city limits. The city of Duquesne has also entered into a similar agreement with MSSU.

An understanding was reached with Dean Dankelson from the Jasper County Prosecutor’s Office; allowing MSSU officers to process all criminal offenses through that office. Persons arrested on campus will be transported to the sheriff’s office in Carthage for booking.

Finally, on July 17, 2008, the Missouri Police Officer Standards and Training Commission notified the MSSU DPS that they were officially recognized as a law enforcement agency and they would work with the department to be sure officers remained in compliance with Missouri POST requirements.

Many things still need to be done at this point. More officers will be tested and promoted to “campus police officer.” A contract for dispatching will be signed with the Joplin Communications Center to allow dispatchers to do status checks for MSSU officers and to give officers faster access to data from the FBI’s National Crime Information Center. A mutual aid agreement will be signed with the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office and the MSSU DPS will soon become a member of the Tri-State Major Case Squad.

Thousands of dollars worth of equipment has already been received through grants as a result of becoming a campus police department. Many more significant advantages will soon be realized. Plans are in the works to have joint training exercises with the Joplin Police Department, the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office and the Duquesne Police Department, especially in responding to “active shooter” situations. This, coupled with the fact that we have a world-class criminal justice program on campus, should ensure that MSSU DPS campus police officers are more than adequately prepared to deal with any violent encounter.

For information call 625-9741.