The announcement of Darryl Harrison’s impending retirement from his position as the director of the Department of Public Safety signals the end of a nine-year chapter in the department’s history. Although there have been a number of high-profile security issues over the past academic year, Harrison is intending to leave on a positive note, stating that he’s “accomplished everything [he] really wanted to do” during his time here. His successes are not invisible; he spearheaded the overdue introduction of a network of closed-circuit television cameras throughout the campus, and DPS officers have seen a much-needed wage increase and a commitment to providing them with better equipment and training.

Though we are grateful for any and all advances Harrison has made in student safety, his decision to leave raises questions as to what still remains to be done – or more accurately, what the job description for whoever fills his shoes must contain. The lauded camera network is, for starters, far from comprehensive, and technical troubles have consistently blighted its usefulness. The three-year road to a “blue light” emergency call box system that actually works has been similarly messy, thanks in part to the near-slapstick toppling of several by wayward construction trucks in 2005. Georgetown upperclassmen can recall a campus that has been the location of assaults, large-scale fights and incidents that involved actual bodily harm to students and DPS officers, including the notorious student shooting in 2006 where a then-senior was shot in on 33rd and Prospect and another incident in 2005 where a then-sophomore was grazed by a bullet after a struggle resulted in gunshots in his apartment. As a result of these and other incidents, our e-mail inboxes are continuously assaulted by notifications that there have been multiple burglaries and robberies in the area at all hours of the day.

In the light of these issues, we can’t help but find Harrison’s claim of achieving all he aimed for either disingenuous or simply defeatist. There are certainly limits to what one person can do in a role like director of DPS; an individual would have to be superhuman to navigate through the dungeons of university red tape, engage budgetary demons in fiscal combat and emerge victorious every time. As such, we don’t wish to belittle Harrison’s achievements. Our next director, however, will be left with this still-reigning issue of undervalued DPS officers not being given what they need in order to make the task of keeping the rest of us safe feasible, and it is not something that can be addressed if she or he enters into the role with an attitude that high levels of campus crime are inevitable.

This is something that the student body can be involved in, in the most basic of ways. We must be careful not to greet the announcement of new measures with anything more than scrutiny until verifiable results begin to trickle down. If we want a new director to attempt wrestling some much-needed DPS funding from administrative hands, students themselves are going to have to stop leaving their laptops sitting around in unlocked houses. Affluent universities are always going to attract some sort of criminal behavior, but a commitment to resistance, on our part and on the part of the administration, is fundamental. The question remains whether the administration will be prepared to hire someone who is strong enough to give the university an adequately funded DPS. We canvassed for optimism with negative results.

Correction: The article “Wanted: Effective DPS Leader” incorrectly said that in 2006, a senior was shot in Burleith. She was acutally shot on 33rd and Prospect.

Comments are closed.