This April, three external reviewers hired by UBC conducted a thorough review of everything falling under the umbrella of department of Campus Security. The review was recommended by the Campus Safety and Security Committee in late 2015, operating on the knowledge that an in-depth look at Campus Security had not been done in many years.

“I've been on campus for 26 years, and to my knowledge this is the first time [that Campus Security] has been reviewed,” said Debbie Harvie, managing director of University Community Services — a position which includes Campus Security in its portfolio. 

Campus Five-0: A look at safety and security at UBC

The three members of the external review committee — Fred Fotis of the University of Wisconsin, Stan Gilmour of the Reading Police in the UK and Pat Patton of the University of Regina — visited both the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses with the goal “to evaluate current operations and provide feedback and suggestions to enhance those operations in the near and longer term,” according to their final report.

They spent four days on the Vancouver campus and one day on the Okanagan campus, carrying out interviews and assessments.

The review makes 31 recommendations to improve Campus Security that the reviewers feel that UBC should concentrate on. Most of the recommendations focus on the “dissonance” that the reviewers found on the Vancouver campus. 

As the review explains, “There was a lack of clarity concerning the importance of safety on the campus, who was undertaking the security function and how it was being undertaken, what role the Campus Security department was fulfilling … and many other issues.”

While the 30-page review is much too long to analyze here in full, this article touches on some of the recommendations and issues that seemed most central to the report.

Students wishing to read the full report, which shines additional light on specific problems with security and safety management at UBC and shows students what types of improvements that they can expect in the coming years, may find the report here.

Clarity of role

Recommendations one through six touched on the lack of a clarity of the role of Campus Security, emphasizing the dissonance between the importance of safety on campus and the functioning of campus security found on campus. The suggestions here are broad and overarching, suggesting a mild overhaul of the way the department runs and its responsibilities as a result. 

Specifically, the section pinpoints making their roles and responsibilities clear, which will in turn also inform the nature of their partnership with the RCMP — even noting that Campus Security should receive proper training in when “to turn a criminal action over to the RCMP.”

"When questioned specifically about the Campus Security department, students (and many staff) on the Vancouver campus were not clear as to their role."

— Campus Security External Review

“When questioned specifically about the Campus Security department, students (and many staff) on the Vancouver campus were not clear as to their role,” the report reads, adding that even Campus Security staff were seemingly unsure as to what their role was.

A review of the University Bylaws of the Vancouver campus also suggested a clarification of roles and responsibilities.

Financials

Campus Security’s financial resources (recommendation 16) are noted as a point of concern by the review team.

"It is clear that the Campus Security’s department on the Vancouver campus over promises and under delivers with its current resource model."

— Campus Security External Review

“It is clear that the Campus Security’s department on the Vancouver campus over promises and under delivers with its current resource model,” noted the report.

They underline a particular confusion in the department with how exactly resources should be allocated and prioritized, often resulting in nonsensical distribution of money.

The reviewers also emphasized their concern that at times there are “only two patrol staff” on the Vancouver campus, and “as such they can have little real impact on community safety and certainly very little on ‘keeping students safe.’”

When interviewed in the past about patrol officers, Campus Security representatives could not touch on the exact number on campus or even whether that number changed from day to night, citing safety concerns with disclosure.

The report gets quite clear with the fact that they have higher expectations from the Vancouver campus in terms of financials than what the current model is delivering. They were evidently unimpressed with the current resource allocation model — namely because they felt that resources were allocated in a biased manner — and also noted that cutbacks in recent years had been apparently executed with little concern as to their impact.

However, Harvie disagrees.

“Although we did take a little bit of a budget cut,” said Harvie, “it was done very thoughtfully and in a way that we didn't reduce our services on campus.”

Blue phones

The blue phones only come up very briefly (in recommendation seven), when the report advises the Vancouver campus to “immediately bag” any blue phones that are out of order, and to “implement a plan to repair or replace the non-working blue phones quickly and on an on-going basis.” It also notes that blue phones should be given a “high priority” for maintenance.

Recommendation seven, however, is one of the three recommendations that UBC disagrees with.

“Early April, when the review committee was here, we were finalizing the installation of 16 new phones and retrofitting the 20 existing phones. They were never out of service. So when we responded to the report we noted that,” said Harvie.

"Regarding the blue phones, the roll-out appeared to have been treated as a project rather than a program and, as such, contingencies were not thought through."

— Campus Security External Review

In contrast, the review writes that “regarding the blue phones, the roll-out appeared to have been treated as a project rather than a program and, as such, contingencies were not thought through.”

Harvie notes that currently, if a blue phone goes out of order the university has plans in place to immediately put a bag over the phone to show that it is not working — but they are all currently functioning.

Sense of community

The report also included several recommendations meant to enhance the sense of community and community safety provided by Campus Security and the Vancouver campus (recommendations 8, 9, 10 and 11). These recommendations suggest a clear value statement, a development of education, policies, support services and awareness of the issues around sexual violence, as well as community consultation, among other areas of focus.

Recommendation 11 also suggests the development of “staff skills and understanding [that] encourage a more interactive relationship with the community.”

Staff of Campus Security

The report suggests small tweaks to the management of Campus Security staff.

They recommend the recruitment of a “Head of Profession for Community Safety” as a “senior post holder” to be responsible for creating and managing relationships with stakeholders with matters regarding community safety. They “would be the face and the voice of community safety for UBC” and report directly to the executive.

Regarding the general staff of Campus Security, the review team reported that “all levels of the Vancouver staff seemed to despair at not being listened to or heard,” and that they also “did not appear to have much sense of their role or purpose.” 

They recommend a re-energization of staff, closer partnerships with others such as Safewalk, and even tweaks to the uniforms of Campus Security staff to bring about a "more visible, recognizable style" with a "common colour and standard."

Risk assessment and incident management

The report also found both risk assessment (recommendation 30) and incident management (recommendations 31 and 32) practices on campus to be lacking.

The review committee notes that they did “not find evidence of a thorough risk assessment” of the Vancouver campus. They suggest that one be done immediately, as well as the creation of a safety certification process for campus sections.

“There was little concerted effort to review the University’s response and use lessons to build procedures for future incidents…. The managing of sexual assault is one example.”

— Campus Security External Review

The review also notes that for incident management, “there was an acknowledgement on both campuses that UBC was unprepared for some kinds of major incidents.” They recommend that new responses to critical incidences be developed and turned into the standard.

Interestingly, as the report writes regarding the lack of good incident management by the university, “there was little concerted effort to review the University’s response and use lessons to build procedures for future incidents…. The managing of sexual assault is one example.”

Recommendations 31 and 32 are the other two that the university disagreed with, according to Harvie.

“In fact we do have a lot of plans and protocols in place for emergency preparedness,” said Harvie. “I don't think they really spent a lot of time looking at our risk management services and emergency preparedness.”

Implementation: What’s next?

In an interview with The Ubyssey, Debbie Harvie noted that the university plans to prioritize recommendations 1, 3, 8, 10, 11, 16, 20 and 21.

“All of these primarily focus on establishing the vision and purpose of the department first because I think we need to clarify that, and then other things will follow,” said Harvie.

The university will be bringing on Benjamin Goold, a UBC professor in the Faculty of Law, and another consultant (to be decided on) to begin working on the implementation of many of the review’s points, beginning with the new “vision” for the department moving forward.

“I'm actually quite excited about [the recommendations], because I think for the first time we're going to get very clear role and mandate clarification for the department," said Harvie.

"I think it's going to take us some time to move forward in a very thoughtful way to implement the recommendations, but I thought it was a good review."

The full report can be read here.