HAVING TAUGHT thousands of criminal justice students over the years, I was pleased to see that officers were given a voice to express their concerns in Wednesday's front page story ('ODU police officers speak of thin staffing, poor morale') about staffing levels in the Old Dominion University Police Department.
But the report is inaccurate in its portrayal of campus policing. It points out that the International Association of Chiefs of Police recommends a ratio of 2.2 police officers per 1,000 individuals a ratio based on community police departments, not campus police departments.
Communities have much different policing needs than college campuses. Many factors, such as the number of on-campus students, proximity to other police departments, and campus geography, influence staffing levels in campus police departments.
As a result, campus police departments typically have a lower ratio of officers to students. The FBI's most recent data, from 2013, indicate the ratio of campus police officers to college students is actually 1.67 officers per 1,000 students.
Tying the campus police officer ratio together with the number of students on campus, and recognizing that ODU has become a leader in providing distance education, one can point to a different conclusion about the staffing level. Old Dominion University serves roughly 20,000 students on campus and 5,000 students through distance learning. Using the 1.67 ratio, this suggests that the university should have 33.5 officers to serve the 20,000 students.
The number of officers available for patrol was highlighted in a way that suggests too few officers are available for patrol. There is an assumption that police patrol prevents crime. The bulk of evidence-based research shows that police patrol does not reduce crime.
Law enforcement experts agree that a concerted effort by various stakeholders is needed to prevent crime.
I have witnessed the concerted effort that Chief Rhonda Harris has in place for the campus community and the local community.
I am proud to be a part of it.
Brian K. Payne
Vice Provost, Old Dominion University