University Police doesn’t have enough officers, and officers’ radios don’t work inside many USF buildings. Also, security camera use should be boosted, according to a study released in December.
Hallcrest Systems Inc. – a security consulting firm headed by former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Thomas M. Seamon – was hired by the University to determine how safe USF is and how it can be safer.
The company, paid $13,000 by USF, began its look into security at USF in October. The inquiry came about as a result of increasing scrutiny of UP, which has long complained that it lacks proper manpower and pay.
Seamon, the consultant assigned to the job, found the following to be the most challenging issues faced by USF: natural and man-made disasters, crime, health issues, student violence, workplace violence and terrorism.
The 27-page document also includes a list of 12 recommendations, including purchasing Tasers for officers, increasing the use of security cameras and mandating the wearing of ID cards by all students, faculty and staff on campus.
The report also found several problems with UP, including a lack of racial diversity among officers, faulty radios, low pay and an out-of-date building.
University Spokesman Ken Gullette said USF has already made progress addressing the concerns. The decision to hire private security guards was based on recommendations from the consultant, he said. Although the hiring of private security was seen as controversial by many within UP, Gullette insists that many officers like the guards.
“I’ve been told by people inside UP that they love the security guards because they take a burden off,” he said.
Severing UP from the Division of Student Affairs and creating a separate Division of Public Safety – a change since implemented by the University – was also recommended by the consultant.
Gullette also said USF was trying to resolve UP retention and staffing issues through collective bargaining, which has since reached an impasse.
Concerning the communications system, the report states that police radios “carried by officers cannot receive or transmit in many of the buildings on campus.”
The consultant also pointed out the lack of racial diversity within the ranks, which are predominately filled by white males.
Staffing was a major concern of the consultant.
UP maintains only 40 sworn officers – though it is funded for 53.
By conducting exit interviews and employee surveys, the consultant sought to learn why turnover is so high.
According to the report, salary was the culprit, as “hiring and retention of police personnel is an immediate and growing problem brought about, in part, by a non-competitive compensation package.”
The report recommends that salaries and compensation packages should be on par with those offered by the Tampa Police Department (TPD), the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HSCO) and other nearby law enforcement agencies.
Presently, the base pay for UP officers is $35,041, while the TPD and the HCSO pay an average of $40,000 to their starting officers. Gullette believes that UP officers are wrong in comparing UP salaries with TPD and HCSO.
“We will never be on the same level as Tampa and Hillsborough. We will try to get closer,” he said.
University Police should compare their salaries and benefits with those at other universities, rather than local police departments, Gullette said. To illustrate this point, he compared police work to newspaper work.
“If you’re in a big market like Tampa and you’re working at a local paper, you’re not going to expect the same salary as you’d be getting at the Tampa Tribune.”
Public Information Officer Lt. Meg Ross was satisfied with the report.
“We found the consultant’s report to be very insightful,” she said. “We are hopeful that the University will implement the recommendations.”
Crpl. Stephanie Crookston, who represents the Police Benevolent Association, hopes the findings will push USF to invest money in safety, but is uncertain whether the University will make use of the findings.
“We feel that the result of the consultant’s report confirms much of what we and our Chief have been conveying to USF for years,” she said. “They now have the recommendations of the ‘independent’ security consultant that they selected and paid for, to validate the financial support considered necessary to address the University’s safety concerns. The real question is how will USF choose to use this information? What time frame will USF set to address these security concerns?”
Hallcrest, a company based in Pennsylvania, provides corporate, law enforcement and private security consulting, according to its Web site. In addition to its work with federal agencies, Hallcrest has been hired by several universities, including Boston University and Pennsylvania State University.