Correction: Sgt. Brooks does not and will not carry a firearm as originally published.
All ten Public Safety officers and Interim Director of Public Safety, Dave Zylak, are currently in the process of obtaining official police commissions from the state of Maryland.
The move comes after conversations between Zylak and Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Laura Bayless. “After talking with [former Director of Public Safety] Santiago and now Zylak, [getting the commissions] made sense. It is really about getting [the officers] the training and certifications they need,” said Bayless.
The new commissions will give Public Safety Officers “the authority to enforce Maryland law on campus property and property they agree to protect,” said Zylak.
According to Zylak, currently only Sgt. Tony Brooks is a commissioned police officer. All other officers have no legal authority from the state. The officers do have “the authority to enforce the rules and regulations of the College as granted by the Board of Trustees and the Campus Regulation Act,” said Zylak.
According to the Public Safety website, “Officers, with exception, have no authority to arrest any person other than that authority deemed appropriate for any citizen. Arrest includes the temporary or permanent detainment of a person against his or her will.” Once commissioned police officers, Public Safety will have the authority to detain and arrest citizens for violations of Maryland law.
The new authority does not include the use of firearms and, according to Zylak, Public Saftey will continue to not carry firearms.
Both Bayless and Zylak said the change does not reflect a broader change in the direction or vision of Public Safety.
“Ninety nine percent of violations are and will continue to be handled through the Judicial Board on campus. We understand [students] are here for a learning experience and we are not trying to ruin anyone’s life,” said Zylak. “[The commissions] are really for the other one percent [of incidences]. For instance, if someone puts their hands on an officer, attacks an officer, they should be arrested,” Zylak added.
Though a police commission in the Maryland comes with new authority, it does not come with new training. According to Zylak, the process includes an application and background check with the local State Police barracks but does not include additional training. The commissions must be renewed every two years.
Regardless of state requirements, Zylak says officers receive “18-24 hours a year of in-service training.” The officers also just returned from a week-long college-specific basic training course in Anne Arundel County earlier this summer. “I wanted to get everyone the same training at the same time,” said Zylak.
Zylak said students should not change the way they interact with Public Safety. “I tell my officers to treat others the way they would like to be treated, with respect,” said Zylak, adding students should treat officers the same way.