Campus safety center one step closer to becoming law

By Jill Disis

After campus shootings at Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech, one remedy to campus safety problems is making its way through Congress.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed on Feb. 3 legislation to authorize the creation of a National Center for Campus Public Safety.

The proposed bill aims to provide new training for campus police, conduct research to keep campuses safe, and offer grants to universities to put toward campus safety programs.

“This has been our highest priority,” said Chris Blake, the associate director of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, an organization built around advancing public safety at campuses. “IACLEA has been involved for some time.”

Blake said the biggest benefits are fostering collaboration and cooperation among universities nationwide and the national government.

“Really, nothing like that exists today,” Blake said about the proposed center. “There is no central place where people are focused on this.”

Barbara O’Connor, chief of the University police, said she was looking forward to the proposed bill’s passage.

“It’s been something that IACLEA (the campus law enforcement association) has been working with representatives and Congressmen to recognize,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor said the University pays dues to this campus safety group. These dues are put toward advocating for legislation both on the University’s behalf and that of any other universities that support the organization, she said.

“It’s just specific to campus public law enforcement,” O’Connor said.

The new possibilities for grants to universities was of special interest, she added.

“I hope the law passes and I look forward to grant opportunities,” O’Connor said.

The Senate’s plans for the bill are not yet clear.

“I don’t know what their schedule is,” Blake said. “I’m pleased the House has passed the bill though.”