By Iván Flores
Public hearings for a police department at Washtenaw Community College could begin as early as this month. Scott Hilden, chief of public safety, presented a proposal to implement a fully certified police department at WCC to the Board of Trustees during their annual retreat. Michigan law requires that at least two public hearings be held before a binding vote is taken, and an oversight committee be established before a school police department is implemented.
The hearings are tentatively scheduled for March 28 and April 25. However, Larry Barkoff, a lawyer for the school, said nothing is set in stone.
Hilden’s proposal calls for four police officers at an annual cost of $367,000 with an additional one-time startup cost of $93,000 for equipment and training. No mention was made about the cost of insurance.
Hilden said the officers would be handpicked from retired law enforcement. Their training would be specific to a college environment and would include training to deal with implicit bias, and interaction with students with disabilities.
Unlike other Michigan universities and community colleges of similar size, WCC does not have its own police department or armed guards.
Hilden was hired in January after retiring from the Canton Police Department, where he oversaw the School Resource Officer program for 15 years. He cited a number of incidents during his tenure at WCC which have led him to believe the school is not prepared to deal with emergencies. Among those incidents Hilden cited were an armed robbery outside of the Business Education building and threats made by mentally unstable students.
Trustees Dave DeVarti and Ruth Hatcher said they would oppose the plan unless they are convinced the oversight for a police department is adequate. Hatcher said her son had been intimidated by campus security and was not eager to see them armed.
The administration can present a detailed plan to the board of trustees at the request of McKnight, who is the chair. Barkoff, the college’s lawyer, said that request has not yet been made.
This version of the campus security story first appeared in the March 20 print edition of the Voice. Earlier versions were web-published shortly after the board of trustees meetings.