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PHCC votes to create campus police force
Five person squad planned
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) will set up a police department to improve security on campus, following the lead of other colleges statewide.
The PHCC Board on Monday gave its unanimous approval to the creation of the police force. There was no discussion.
PHCC Emergency Planning Coordinator Gary Dove said he hopes the college will be able to establish its police department by May.
The Virginia Community College System (VCCS) and the state Department of Criminal Justice Services first must approve the police department. Dove said PHCC is doing the necessary paperwork now.
However, he said he expects no problems will arise — 11 of the 23 colleges in the VCCS already have established police departments and the state community college board has adopted a resolution calling for the others to do the same.
That resolution mentions PHCC specifically, along with 11 other community colleges that do not yet have police forces.
Colleges and schools nationwide are stepping up security measures in the wake of campus tragedies in recent years, such as the shootings at Virginia Tech in April 2007 and the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
PHCC administrators say incidents of crime on campus are rare and usually minor — such as the theft of a personal item left behind in a classroom — but it always is possible for more serious crime to occur.
Keeping students, employees and visitors safe is of utmost concern to the college, said PHCC President Angeline Godwin.
Plans are for PHCC to have a five-member police force, including two sworn
police officers and three security officers who already work for the college, according to Dove, a retired Martinsville Police Department lieutenant.
He has indicated that he likely would head the college’s police department.
According to a U.S. Department of Justice survey, 74 percent of colleges and universities nationwide with at least 2,500 students have sworn police officers. As of the fall semester, 3,087 students were enrolled at PHCC.
Among its duties, the college’s police department will respond to calls for assistance and investigate crimes on campus, officials said.
Sworn police officers will have the authority to make arrests, Dove said. Anyone arrested who needs to be incarcerated will be taken to the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, he said.
Arresting someone will “absolutely be the last resort” and police will have to show cause, said PHCC Public Relations Director Kris Landrum.
Police will be encouraged to first use other methods of handling problems, such as mediating disputes between people, a report shows.
Overall, PHCC’s police department will operate using a “customer service-based, community-oriented policing model,” according to the report.
The college wants PHCC police to have positive interactions with students and employees so people on campus trust the police and feel comfortable talking to officers — even if they do not have the same comfort with law-enforcement officers elsewhere, the report shows.
The police department also will enforce traffic and parking laws, provide security during special events on campus, make sure buildings are locked at closing time and teach people about crime prevention, the report says.
PHCC police and security officers will be able to provide mutual aid to other area law-enforcement agencies if their help is sought, the report shows.