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PHCC campus police force approved

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) on Tuesday received authorization to establish a campus police department.

The police department will be responsible for protecting students and staff during business hours. Current security guards will work when PHCC is not operating, such as on weekends, said Ron Epperly, the college’s vice president for financial and administrative services.

Roughly half of the 23 colleges in the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) already have campus police departments, PHCC officials have said.

The VCCS Board gave approval for the remaining colleges to establish police departments amid efforts to improve security in response to tragedies such as the April 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech and a December massacre at a Connecticut elementary school.

Earlier this month, there was a shooting incident at New River Community College’s satellite campus at the New River Valley Mall in Christiansburg.

PHCC administrators say incidents of crime on campus are rare and usually minor — such as thefts of personal items left behind in classrooms — but it always is possible for more serious crimes to occur.

According to Epperly, the VCCS submitted an affidavit on PHCC’s behalf to Henry County Circuit Court to start a campus police department. The court certified the affidavit and returned it to the VCCS, which sent the affidavit to PHCC. It was received Tuesday.

The affidavit is authorization to start the police department, he said.

“It’s a lot of red tape” to go through, he admitted, “but that’s just the way it is.”

Gary Dove, a retired Martinsville Police Department lieutenant who until now was PHCC’s emergency planning coordinator, will be the college’s police chief, Epperly said.

Dove could not be reached for comment late Tuesday afternoon.

The college plans to hire another full-time police officer to create a two-person police force, Epperly added.


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