Temple’s interim campus safety director discusses goals

Denise Wilhem will emphasize campus safety hiring and engagement during her tenure.

Denise Wilhelm, Campus Safety Services’ deputy director of operations, responds to questions from the media during a press conference on April 14. | NOEL CHACKO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Campus Safety Services’ Deputy Director of Operations Denise Wilhelm was surprised when she learned that Charles Leone, executive director of Campus Safety Services and her colleague of 30 years, would be stepping down on April 29 after his 40-year career at Temple University. 

“I was extremely shocked and sad, something that I’ve known my whole career here was coming to an end,” Wilhelm said. 

Wilhelm will become interim executive director of Campus Safety Services on April 30. However, Wilhelm anticipates holding the position only for the summer, at which point she thinks the university will select a permanent replacement. 

Despite a potentially short tenure, Wilhelm plans to continue initiatives introduced after the fatal shooting of a Temple student in November 2021. For example, she will emphasize Campus Safety’s goal to hire 40 new officers, oversee former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey’s audit of Campus Safety, continue partnerships with Philadelphia Police Department and Allied Universal security and engage the community and students off-campus.

Although many students will leave Main Campus for the summer, Wilhelm wants to engage those who stay on campus by hosting events and facilitating face-to-face dialogue between students and officers. 

She wants to use Temple University Police Department’s partnerships with Temple Student Government to offer safety education programming to students, events on off-campus areas to educate students about campus safety resources and increase on-foot or on-bike patrol to promote in-person communication between officers, residents and students.

“I want to see our patrol officers out in the community more on a day-to-day basis,” Wilhelm said.

Temple hired four new officers who began working on April 25. Temple is also processing fifteen potential candidates for the police academy, Wilhelm wrote in an email to The Temple News. 

Encouraging foot and bike patrol is already part of Campus Safety Services’ training, but Wilhelm hopes to promote it on a larger scale during the summer when it is warmer. 

“It doesn’t have to be anything formal,” Wilhelm said. “It’s just like ‘good afternoon, how are you?’ or, just have a conversation and honestly that’s the best way to get to know your community.”

Judith Robinson, 32nd Ward RCO representative, does not know Wilhelm and wants her to host a town hall to introduce herself and discuss safety in the community. She believes that the new executive director must meet with different community members frequently rather than just speak to a select few residents.

“You can’t keep coming to the same people all the time about whatever problems you have in the community,” Robinson said. 

Upon Leone’s resignation, Temple announced a national search to find his successor.

Temple hired Spelman Johnson, a Massahusetts-based executive search firm, to conduct the search, wrote Sharon Boyle, assistant vice president for human resources, in an email to The Temple News. 

“We have begun the process and hope to have someone in place as soon as possible,” she added.

The university will seek input about the search from a committee of students and faculty and create an opportunity for university stakeholders to share their thoughts on the process, Boyle wrote. 

Wilhelm does not know if she will apply for the permanent position, she said. 

As deputy director, Wilhelm currently focuses solely on department-level operations, but as executive director she will need to meet with the university’s executive leadership about campus safety.

Wilhelm began transitioning into her new role on March 28 by shadowing Leone while he attended university and committee meetings and appeared at press conferences and discussions with parents about campus safety. Additionally, Leone shared information about finances and budgeting with Wilhelm. 

While Wilhelm is nervous about the job, she is happy to have support from her colleagues. 

“Sure, I’m nervous,” Wilhelm said. “My brother-in-law told me you don’t know a job until you have the job and the anxiety about not knowing the job, but I’ve been here long, I have a lot of great support within the department and the university, so I’m excited to transition and keep moving forward.”

Monica Constable contributed reporting. 

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