To the Temple community,
I want to take this opportunity to extend my sincerest gratitude and appreciation for the love and support that officer, posthumously promoted to sergeant, Christopher Fitzgerald's family, colleagues and friends have received since his murder. We are mourning the loss of a guardian of our community and that affects us all deeply. I also want to extend a special thank you to the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) for their unwavering support of the university and our entire department during this challenging time.
As we continue to honor Sergeant Fitzgerald, I want you to know that we will live through his legacy to create and maintain a safer university and community environment. To honor this commitment, I want to share my plan for the university’s Department of Public Safety.
Public Safety Plan
As I shared previously, I spent my first three months listening to and learning from stakeholders within the department, across the university and the surrounding community. I also spent this time building and fostering relationships with strategic partners in higher education, law enforcement and community resources to inform our plans and actions as a department moving forward with the goal to continue fostering trust and establish legitimacy in the community we serve. Specifically, discussion and meetings were held with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), PPD, state and local agencies, and partner universities in Philadelphia and the surrounding region to communicate and collaborate on shared challenges.
These discussions and collaborations are essential for Temple as we collectively work to address violence and gun crimes in our community. Our efforts are centered on fostering trust and legitimacy within the communities we serve, strategic enforcement priorities and efforts, investment in community-based prevention and intervention programs, and measuring the results of our efforts.
Since I arrived in late August, I have engaged with numerous student groups including Temple Student Government, leadership from student organizations, a public health focus group, student town halls and athletics teams, as well as participated in and facilitated university department meetings and training and performed safety evaluations with athletics and other departments to develop, forge and expand relationships. Regarding safety and strategy on and around campus, there are five categories that I organize around current and future initiatives. I will address some of these, but not all, in this message with additional messages in the future to detail the remaining topics.
The research and input from stakeholders informed the reorganization of Temple University Public Safety, previously named Campus Safety Services. The services performed by our distinct units of police officers, including supervisors and detectives, security officers, communications center dispatchers, and contracted Allied Universal security officers, go far beyond our campus boundaries, or what is considered traditional campus safety. In fact, Sgt. Fitzgerald was performing proactive policing off campus, within the patrol zone we co-patrol with PPD. Part of the reorganization has been the complete revision and enhancement of the public safety organizational chart with the proposed and approved expansion to bring on over a dozen strategic and tactical leadership and operational positions, while also aggressively hiring qualified individuals to fulfill open police officer positions. We have posted, and will continue to post, 15 positions, some of which are completely new open positions to increase our capacity and impact to serve our community more effectively.
For example, there are currently three key leadership positions posted, including director of messaging and communication, deputy director of organizational affairs, and director/captain of tactics and professional development. Additional postings include positions in Administrative Operations, Budget and Finance, Professional Standards and Advocacy, Accreditations, Patrol and Security Operations, Criminal Investigations, Training, Technology and Systems, Engagement, Event Operations, and Equipment and Technology. These positions are critical to Public Safety developing and expanding our skills and capabilities departmentwide to better serve the university and community. It should be noted that while other department budgets have been reduced, our budget has not.
The current job market to hire police officers is exceedingly difficult and there is a nationwide challenge for law enforcement agencies keeping up with attrition and retirements. We have lost several police officers who have chosen to leave the profession of policing, in addition to officers that are joining more rural departments. Our strategy is grounded in recruiting and hiring the most qualified individuals to join our department while maintaining our current staffing through retention. We are also hiring and building the department's capacity to provide in-house training through our new Tactical and Professional Development Unit. At the end of January, there were 72 police officers, compared to 79 in early December 2021. If sworn officers working in other capacities, such as supervisors and detectives, are included, there were 97 this January, compared to 110 in December 2021. Although these numbers are not where we would like, we are increasing our efforts and reviewing additional tactics to improve our recruitment and retainment efforts. However, we will not lower our hiring standards as there are issues for agencies that reduce their standards to increase numbers.
A new associate director of administrative operations position will be posted within the next week; the candidate will lead all public safety human resources efforts to recruit, hire, onboard and retain employees. A new contract for our police officers in 2022 increased the starting salary to $59,200, an 8–10% increase from the prior salary contracts depending on years of service. Even with our revised advertising strategy and salary, including a highlighted benefits package which includes free tuition to the employee, tuition remission for officers and their dependents, and a generous match plan for TIAA/Fidelity retirement accounts, we are not seeing the number of candidates we need or desire. We also consistently post to hire lateral (currently certified) police officers, and candidates who are not certified and will need to go through the police academy to add to officer ranks. We are currently reviewing our salary and benefits package to ensure we are competitive to hire and retain police officers.
Regarding safety and security on and around campus, Temple University police officers have returned to work in two officer partner capacities. We will continue to evaluate this practice. The PPD primarily ride in single-officer vehicles, excluding wagons or tactical teams/units. This is a common practice nationwide. We will continue to evaluate this strategy and if adjustments need to be made throughout the semester. Factors we consider are
- the area that we cover, approximately one mile;
- the proximity and short response time of TUPD and PPD due to the area we co-police;
- the impacts of doubling up officers; and
- other deployment strategies that could be utilized.
Although we do not share the same radios or frequency with PPD, we are in constant communication. We have seven PPD radio, assigned to administration, the patrol commander, the investigations commander, the Health Sciences Center, and the remainder to patrol supervisors. In fact, on the night of Sergeant Fitzgerald’s shooting, a TUPD supervisor utilized a PPD radio to call for assistance. Our Communications Center team has complete viewing access to the PPD computer-aided dispatch (CAD) screens that show the calls for service and complaints citywide. At a leadership level, we are in communication with PPD leadership and with the 22nd District command several times a week, if not daily. We also attend weekly shooting review meetings, and their bi-weekly CompStat meetings. Our investigative commander is in daily contact with PPD investigative commanders, and our detectives work on cases together to ensure all investigative leads are exhausted.
We have renegotiated, modified and enhanced our working agreement with PPD to provide supplemental patrol resources, which started again this week. This new program, for up to 288 hours a week of additional patrol hours, is designed to bolster the effectiveness and efficiency of the program and to provide adequate staff for the hours. This enhanced program also provides guidelines and tactical strategic plans on officer deployment and the activities they are to perform in specific designated hot spots, while tracking production, contacts and outreach. The program also increases the communication between the officers completing the assignments and supervisors from TUPD and PPD. This restructure was not without considerable evaluation, input and discussions with TUPD supervisors and officers and PPD leadership on the next steps.
This new program will draw from a citywide pool of eligible PPD officers, not just the 22nd District, and will be overseen by PPD First Deputy Commissioner John Stanford and myself. PPD supervisors and officers will be briefed before they start patrol and will be provided operational TUPD radios and supplemental patrol documentation sheets to gather specific information and outreach efforts during their patrols. We have created higher levels of accountability to better address the violence and criminal activities that we are experiencing. The strategy is based on the identification of hot spots and evidence-based policing.
We are also collaborating with academic, community and city partners to inform our policing policies, practices and decisions and I personally have been in consultation with criminal justice, public health and other experts who have researched and have been providing resources in and throughout the city. We are not going to be able to police our way out of this crisis without considerable collaboration and coordination of resources within and outside of the university. We need a combination of intervention and prevention strategies from the entire city of Philadelphia criminal justice system and social services to effect change.
Messaging and Communication
There are several means of communication that we use to share information.
First is the TUalert system, which sends text messages and emails to the Temple community. These messages are used to communicate information to Temple students, faculty and staff that require immediate action. Alerts are sent for situations, incidents or emergencies that pose an imminent threat or hazard on campus or within the university patrol zone. These are not sent for several reasons, including if there is an immediate arrest of the suspect, or if the incident happened so far before the report to police that there is no longer a threat to the community. These are also not used for crimes that occur outside of TUPD’s patrol zone.
We are increasing the use of messaging through our Twitter and Instagram accounts to share information and updates, and the daily crime and Clery log are all publicly accessible resources for incidents on campus that do not rise to the level of a TUalert.
We are currently in the process of completely recreating our website to provide more transparency and details on a variety of topics such as safety messages, community engagement outreach and opportunities, training opportunities, and crime and case updates. This new website is slated to be completed within the next month. A new director of messaging and communications position is on schedule to be hired as our first in-house communications specialist to increase messaging and transparency through numerous media platforms to reach our diverse stakeholders.
During and after Sgt. Fitzgerald’s death, we have focused on the physical and mental health of our team members to ensure that they are in the best place possible for their themselves, their families and to continue to serve our community. On Sunday, the day after Sergeant Fitzgerald’s death, we held a critical incident stress management debriefing. This was an opportunity to gather our department with culturally competent crisis intervention peer supporters who have extensive experience in these types of situations, to share what reactions to expect, and provide space for sharing, available resources and continued support. We also included the PPD Employee Assistance Program Unit, skilled peer supporters who are serving our local community. We have provided numerous mental health support resources to all our employees, and we will continue to do so. We gave all TUPD police officers several days off after the incident, during the days of the viewing and funeral, followed by the entire weekend. We continue to work with those who are struggling by providing mental health resources and counseling, and work accommodations. Our goal is to support all our employees as they navigate these tragic events while ensuring that we are maintaining services to the university and the community.
I understand this is a lot of information, but I wanted to share details so that you all have accurate information.
Jennifer D. Griffin
Vice President of Public Safety at Temple University