The recent sexual assault in Copley Hall and a string of off-campus robberies have Georgetown students again questioning their safety on the Hilltop. Some students have become frustrated after witnessing unprofessional behavior on the part of Department of Public Safety officers. Georgetown students’ Twitter accounts and Facebook statuses are littered with negative comments about DPS officers, including a claim posted days after the Copley assault that a security guard left the entrance desk. Simply put, student trust in DPS is suffering.

If DPS wants to improve its reputation on campus, it should start by clarifying the process for submitting formal complaints about officers. The department encourages students who “have been subjected to unprofessional conduct, misuse of force or breach of individual rights” to bring the matter directly to DPS. In addition, there is an online form that enables a member of the university to file an anonymous commendation or complaint about individual officers.

Even though DPS has a feedback procedure in place, it is not clearly publicized on its Web site. The front page of the site prominently features links for incident reporting, but a visitor has to click to the “About DPS” section and scroll almost to the bottom of the page before finding a paragraph on the Employee Commendation/Complaint Process.

Furthermore, there is no published information on the outcomes of complaints. Are complainants kept in the loop about potential sanctions or condemnations of officers who abuse their authority or behave unprofessionally? If students do not know how, or if, a concern about a DPS officer is addressed within the department, they will feel less confident that reporting the concern will make any difference.

For every instance of unprofessional behavior among DPS employees, there are surely many officers who perform their jobs well and contribute to the safety of the campus. Yet, their work is overshadowed by the reports of students who feel that they have no forum for recourse other than online comment boards. Explaining the feedback process would represent a conscious effort by DPS to improve communication between the department and the student community.

In light of the recent crimes in and around campus, all eyes are focused on DPS. Now is a prime opportunity for the department to demonstrate its commitment to internal accountability. Doing so will be the first step toward restoring student faith in its ability to safeguard the Hilltop.

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