Eastern and Charleston communities give feedback on UPD interviews

Cassie Buchman, News Editor

A new police chief is set to be announced soon, after three days of interviewing candidates last week.

Candidates were on campus, eating two meals, one with students and one with Lynette Drake, interim associate vice president of student affairs.

Heather Webb, director of student standards, said they have met with the President’s Council and the search committee as well.

The search committee’s feedback will be used when Drake makes her final decision on whom to appoint.

Webb said the new police chief will be announced after the first day of classes.

The first day of interviews started with the current interim police chief Kent Martin.

At an open session where faculty, students, and staff could interview the candidates, Martin talked about his experience, and the connections he has made at Eastern.

“I don’t pretend to know all the answers, but I have a great network of people I can call and people I can go to get the answer,” Martin said.

He added that it should be a “seamless transition” into the new job because he has already had the responsibilities of a police chief during his time as an interim in the position.

During his interview, Martin addressed how he plans to reach out to members of the Eastern community, and bridge the gap between Eastern and the Charleston communities.

Martin said he has different outreach programs in mind to connect with Eastern’s community.

These events include a “Coffee with the Cops” event on Wednesday, Aug. 31, which Martin hopes it will be the first of many icebreakers.

“The police department has kind of become isolated from the rest of the campus in the last few years,” he said. “I want to get us back out there. The way to do that is to talk to people.”

Martin also expressed interest in having officers meeting with Registered Student Organizations.

“Tell us what you’re thinking, what’s on your mind, what’s your concerns?” he said.

Martin said he always thought the UPD could work with the Charleston Police Department on outreach events they hold.

“They could start seeing us as people who just happen to be police officers instead of seeing us as police officers,” he said.

Peter Buckley, another candidate who is currently a special investigator who conducts background checks on applicants to the FBI and other U.S. Department of Justice employers, also spoke about outreach programs.

As a new police chief, Buckley said he would be “foolish” to change anything immediately.

“I’d like to take a look at what’s going on now,” Buckley said. “I’d like to see what’s working and what’s not working.”

He was intrigued by programs such as ‘Coffee with the Cops,’ and having officers go to residence halls and other areas to teach students how to be safer with their property, alcohol abuse talks, and rape prevention programs.

“I’m kind of a wait and see kind of guy with things like that,” he said.

In Buckley’s session, he emphasized the importance of training.

To make connections with the city, Buckley said he would meet with city officials such as the mayor. In the community, he said he wants to touch base with sororities and fraternities, faculty, residence halls, academic departments and others to see what they need.

Dennis Franks, the last candidate interviewed, spoke about building a presence on campus.

If chosen, he plans to assess programs already in place instead of changing systems right away.

“If it’s not broken, it doesn’t need to be fixed,” Franks said.

In Franks’ opinion, the police chief of any department should be the most visible person in the department.

“I try to have very visible presence on campus,” he said.

To increase this visibility, he mentioned using social media to check what people are talking about.

It is with these solid interactions, he said, that officers can create positive relationships.

In five years, Franks said he sees himself still working at Eastern should he get the position. He said he does not want to be the person who jumps around from position to position.

Stefan Eckert, a music professor on the search committee, said he was looking for someone who continued the relationship between the Charleston Police Department and the UPD.

“Get rid of that kind of town-and-gown separation,” he said.

JaLisa Smith, a graduate assistant who works for the UPD, said she wanted to see more community policing from the UPD.

“I am a student who is a minority and I am a leader on campus, I’m very involved, so in my opinion there could be more done in the community policing side,” Smith said. “Some groups see the police, some don’t.”

K’lynn Robinson, a senior psychology major, said as a student, she wants the new police chief to be someone who is respectful and unbiased.

She added that it would be important to watch the way his officers interact with people on campus.

“I kind of want them to be strict, (but) fair,” Robinson said.

Cyle Smith Colbert, a senior communication studies major, said he wanted a police chief who is concerned primarily with student’s welfare and safety.

He said it would be nice to see them more involved with the community and university.

“Every once in a while, walk down and around campus,” Smith Colbert said.

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]