200 Tates Creek Avenue
Richmond, KY 40475
February 8, 2004 Eastern Progress
Donovan Annex, E.K.U.
521 Lancaster Avenue
Richmond, KY 40475

To the Editor:

As an EKU alumnus and a part-time instructor at the university, as well as a safety researcher and law enforcement officer, I was saddened to read the comments attributed to Regent J. T. Gilbert in the February 3 issue of the Progress. Regent Gilbert’s reference to the university’s police department as “campus security” indicates either a woeful lack of knowledge or, more likely, a deliberate attempt to minimize and constrain the department’s role to one that downplays law enforcement in favor of less assertive activities. Surely he is aware that the university does not have a “campus security” department; it has a public police department. That department has essentially the same authority – and the same responsibilities – as any other public police department.

The university supports internationally known law enforcement and criminal justice degree programs, and plays host to Kentucky’s Department of Criminal Justice Training. If law enforcement officers are respected at any university, it should be at EKU. Unfortunately, while many university leaders have voiced support for law enforcement on various occasions, that support sometimes seems not to extend to actively supporting the university’s own officers. It seems that at least some EKU leaders still see the university police not as professional law enforcement officers, but rather as armed security personnel who should be more focused on property protection and order maintenance than on identifying and apprehending criminal offenders. Comments such as those made by Regent Gilbert only support that perception.

EKU has a perennially high rate of turnover among its police officers. Salaries for the university’s police officers are now more comparable to those offered by other agencies in the area than they were in the past, but money alone seldom motivates professional police officers. Adequate pay is a necessary but not sufficient requirement to retain them. They also expect respect for their qualifications and abilities as well as support for their efforts to do the job they have been trained to do. Officers who can’t find that type of support at EKU will look elsewhere for it, and the university will find itself continuing to hire, train and then lose highly qualified officers. If the university police are stretched thin, it is less because of their participation in traffic safety checkpoints than because they are once again advertising vacancies.

Finally, it is important to note that EKU is not an island cut off from the cares of the wider community. Students, faculty and staff are victims of drunk and drugged drivers just as other members of the community are – and a few are also contributors to the problem. To suggest that EKU’s responsibility to help protect the community ends at the boundaries of the campus is to deny responsibility for the impact that the university and those affiliated with it have on Richmond and Madison County. When other local and state agencies are cooperating actively in an effort to address a serious community safety issue, the university and its leaders should be eager partners – especially when, as in this case, they aren’t even paying the bill. Being part of a community means more than taking care of one’s own problems; it means cooperating with others for the greater good of the community. I hope that EKU and its officers will continue to be a part of the community, not apart from it.

Robert McCool

Phone: (859) 582-9666