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USF searches for new assistant VP of Public Safety

Bruce Benson retired Friday after a year and a half as USF’s assistant vice president of the Office of Public Safety.

Benson came to USF in January 2008 after retiring from his role as police chief and director of public safety at Michigan State University.

A new person has not taken over the position yet, but several candidates have been found, said University spokesman Michael Hoad.

Sandy Lovins, associate vice president for Human Resources, is heading the search to replace Benson. Lovins will serve as the acting head of Public Safety until someone is hired.

“What we’re looking for is someone who can showunderstanding in police issues and of general issues of safety,” Hoad said. “They have to be able to work closely with students and handle emergency situations.”

Benson said the stress of the job is one reason he is retiring.

“The police lifestyle causes people not to live long,” he said. “It’s a high-stress job that I have worked for a while.”

Benson said his goal was to establish a new Division of Public Safety during his tenure and he feels that has happened.

Over the year, the department has consolidated the dispatchers for Allied Barton, University Police (UP) and Parking Enforcement officers to one location, saving about $100,000 in 2008 alone.

Those savings are expected to total about $145,000 annually in upcoming years.

A full-time employment parking enforcement position was also replaced with two student employees working around 20 hours a week, which saved about $19,000 per year.

Benson said the money saved from those programs enabled the department to give raises to security personnel.

At the start of Benson’s employment, 39 of 49 available UP officer positions were filled. Now, 42 of those positions are filled and the department is in the process of filling three of the seven vacancies.

Benson also said the UP building has received upgrades, including restroom and shower renovations along with carpet cleaning and replacement.

During Benson’s employment, the department incorporated more student involvement.

“We have created a criminology internship, parking enforcement student employees and public safety involvement with Student Government and events,” he said.

Hoad said there is a tradition at USF of getting students involved in public safety and that vice-president applicants are even meeting with SG.

In January 2009, Benson, who lives in Bradenton, said he signed an open-ended contract that allowed him to work from home a few days of the week for less pay and hours.

He said it was a long commute to work and he wanted to spend more time with his family.

“I had a great team of people that really came together to work hard and I’m really proud of all of them,” Benson said.