Campus Safety hopes to hire more officers

At the recommendation of Temple University’s Violence Reduction Task Force, the university will direct funds toward hiring and training of personnel.

Nationally there was a 3 percent decrease in police staffing levels between 2020 and 2021. | ALEXANDRA MCDONNELL / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Despite Temple University increasing their budget to hire more police officers, the university is struggling to find qualified officers or people who want to work in the field of policing. 

“We’re all fighting for the same talented and engaged individuals,” said Jennifer Griffin, vice president for public safety. “So just as we’re fighting for those applicants, so are the other universities or the other, the city agencies.”

To help with recruiting shortfalls, Campus Safety Services plans to increase funding and is currently hiring a director of personnel administration to lead recruiting efforts and a director of messaging and communication to discuss open positions on social media or in the news, Griffin said.

Campus Safety has already applied to the Local Law Enforcement Support Grant Program, a state government program which provides funding for improved recruitment efforts and equipment upgrades. Temple is also working with an outside contractor to secure federal grants in hopes of increasing funding for officer acquisition, technology, equipment and training, Griffin wrote in an email to The Temple News.

Temple’s safety funding strategy, based on a report from Temple’s Violence Reduction Task Force which listed safety recommendations for the university, includes securing additional funding to improve campus safety efforts and evaluating Campus Safety’s staffing concerns.

Specific funding recommendations in the report included financial support for a research center that evaluates violence reduction strategies and community programs. The Task Force also suggested that the university could use internal funds, pilot funding for research, external government or grant funding or the University of California’s system, which uses a portion of workers’ compensation fees to fund violence prevention measures.

Campus Safety, which also includes dispatchers and communication workers, experiences issues with shift staffing when employees call out sick or are on family and medical leave, Griffin said. 

Griffin doesn’t have a specific number for how many police officers the university wants to hire, but acknowledged the nationwide challenges with the perception of police officers and demands of the job, like time commitment, making it more difficult to hire officers, Griffin said.

Nationally, there was an approximately 3 percent decrease in officer staffing levels during 2020 and 2021, according to a national survey from the Police Executive Research Forum.

The survey concluded that these negative changes were likely caused by the stress of COVID-19 and the widespread protests and demonstrations brought on by the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Budget issues also could have contributed to cuts in hiring, according to the survey. 

Philadelphia Police Department’s staffing levels have decreased from 6,590 filled uniformed positions at the end of the 2019 fiscal year to nearly 5,990 at the end of fiscal year 2022, according to an October 2022 audit.

In addition to hiring more personnel, Campus Safety wants to enhance training for police officers and contracted security officers, Griffin said. 

Jim Price, a senior psychology major, said that even with more officers, additional funding should be directed towards how those officers are trained. He also believes that there should be more clarity about what their responsibilities are.

“The current officers I see are on their phone or doing whatever they’re doing, not necessarily, in my opinion, paying attention,” Price said.

While the university has a relationship with the Philadelphia Police Department’s training academy, Griffin said funds could be allocated to in-house training for hiring more instructors and equipment.

Ellie Blanck, a freshman Spanish and journalism major, lives on campus and thinks that the university should use the funding to address residence hall security staffing.

“I think that sometimes they, the people at the security desk, aren’t necessarily paying as much attention as they should, and I think that’s maybe something that they could work on,” Blanck said.

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