“You have to be open and receptive to the needs of the community you serve.” This is the first part of Clinton Brantley’s response to the question of how public safety can be an effective force on campus. He comes to St. Mary’s after ten years as the Chief of Police at Wesleyan College.
Brantley’s mission as the director of St. Mary’s Public Safety is the same as it was at Wesleyan: ensuring the security and safety of the campus. However, there are some crucial differences. Perhaps most significant is that, unlike their counterparts at St. Mary’s, Wesleyan’s officers are all licensed police; complete with arrest powers. This meant that at Wesleyan, officers have considerably more raw authority than they do at St. Mary’s. While some directors might be bothered by this apparent loss of authority, Brantley insists that he feels quite the opposite. According to him, the most important part of a Public Safety department is that it is tailored to the campus that it serves. In the case of St. Mary’s vs. Wesleyan, St. Mary’s simply employs a lighter footprint with regard to public safety enforcement.
Brantley’s respect for St. Mary’s policy does not mean that he lacks a desire to improve the Public Safety department. He hopes to introduce and expand programs that will strengthen Public Safety without, as some have feared in the past, “policifying” the department. Instead, he places a huge emphasis on improving the Public Safety’s relationship with students. He plans to begin a program he calls “Chief’s Night Out.” On certain evenings, often week days, Brantley and several other officers will travel between certain public spaces on campus such as the campus center, the pub, and perhaps Dorchester Circle in order to make themselves available to talk to students. Brantley emphasized that this would not be a patrol. He expects that the officers on the walk will be off duty, in the sense that they will not be looking to enforce school policy. Instead, their focus will be on reaching out to the campus population and strengthening their ties with the community. In Brantley’s words: “I see where we need to build a better bridge between the campus and the PS department.”
In addition to improving his department’s relationship with the community, Brantley aims to take steps to improve safety on campus. Specifically, and somewhat unsurprisingly, his chief concerns are with decreasing alcohol abuse and sexual assault on campus. To this end, he hopes to employ off-campus experts and professionals to present educational information about these issues. Brantley has already expressed an interest in bringing back the Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) program that used to exist on campus. The program is designed to teach people, primarily women, simple self-defense techniques to better protect themselves from sexual assault. Other programs and presentations are still being determined, but Brantley hopes that community education will reduce the need for Public Safety to exercise its authority by allowing community members to more effectively police themselves.
Addressing what may be, for some, the elephant in the room, Brantley said: “I’m not sure about previous directors, but I feel very strongly about my community outreach programs.” Brantley is currently looking into increasing the number of officers on staff specifically, he says, to increase the amount of time that each officer can spend on community outreach. He is also exploring a variety of options for increasing student communication with department. One proposal under consideration is a regular column, published in The Point News, where he can answer student questions about issues relating to public safety on campus.