Safety and Well-being Advisory Committee Recommendations
Virginia Commonwealth University's responsibility to embrace diversity and create an equitable environment where everyone can thrive, regardless of cultural background, life experience or identity, has led to its continued work to address the very real inequities affecting our communities. Of particular concern is law enforcement's interactions with ethnic, racial, gender and sexual minorities, particularly those involving African American communities.
In 2020, the Safety and Well-being Advisory Committee (SWAC) was established to develop recommendations to advance VCU's public safety model, fostering systemic and tactical reforms that support the safety and well-being of every individual on campus. SWAC was charged with defining the components of a new transformational model for public safety, leveraging a transdisciplinary approach to better meet the VCU community's needs. The committee was independent of VCU Police.
SWAC was co-sponsored by VCU and VCU Health System and chaired by Andrew Daire, Ph.D., VCU School of Education dean, and Sheryl Garland, chief of health impact for VCU Health System. To achieve the committee's objectives, the responsibilities of SWAC were divided between the Safety and Well-being Advisory Committee and its subcommittees. The SWAC served as the steering committee. Subcommittees focused on specific areas with deliverables defined by SWAC—fair and impartial policing, community relations and transformational model development. SWAC and its subcommittees included over 50 members, representing VCU faculty, staff, students and alumni, VCU Health team members and community members.
The focus areas of SWAC recommendations are 1) education and training, 2) VCU Police officer recruitment and retention, 3) VCU Police and department accountability, 4) transformational model development and 5) changing the culture and safety at VCU. An overview of each recommendation is outlined below. The recommendations provide general direction for implementation teams.
Each recommendation will be assigned to a VCU unit to determine how best to implement. While many of the recommendations can be implemented within the next six to twelve months, some may require added time to implement. Each corresponding unit will report on its progress quarterly to the vice president for administration. Progress will also be tracked and updated on the safetymodel.vcu.edu website.
For SWAC-related questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Education and training
Expand training opportunities for VCU PD sworn officers and staff as well as the VCU community
- Increase Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training to attain a 100% saturation rate among officers and dispatchers.
- Explore a VCU-based Fair and Impartial Police (FIP) refresher training for officers.
- Explore the Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics (ICAT) Model for officer training.
- Allow sworn officers to choose role-specific training.
- Develop mental health support training for all VCU faculty, staff and students to help identify and support students in distress, as well as training for students on bystander intervention, de-escalation, and stress management skills development.
VCU Police officer recruitment and retention
Develop a recruitment model engaging VCU students and community
It is recommended that VCU Police develop a more robust recruiting strategy to identify candidates at various career stages (e.g., undergraduate students, career changers, or existing officers outside of VCU) and emphasize VCU’s community policing style. A review of lateral recruitment efforts is recommended to achieve maximum lateral recruitment of passionate and caring officers.
Eliminate stigmas surrounding mental health and psychological well-being
It is recommended that VCU Police encourage department employees to seek services and resources to support their well-being on an ongoing basis.
VCU Police and department accountability
Create a Civilian Oversight and Advisory Board
It is recommended that a Civilian Oversight and Advisory Board be created and housed under the Division of Administration and remain independent of VCU Police.
Enhance internal officer review processes
- Review the internal process for supervisory complaint reviews to minimize potential conflicts of interest in complaint evaluation.
- Include officer-specific data regarding the demographic makeup of individuals with whom the officers interact.
- Create minimum requirements for live supervisor observations per month and create observation checklists/templates for supervisors to complete that focus on positive community engagement as well as evaluations of any stops, with a focus on potential bias factors, incorporating all observation data in officer reviews.
- Rewrite Written Directive 4-8, which regulates officer-community member interactions and the status of complaints, with language that reflects the assumption that complaints are made in good faith while recognizing that officers are entitled to a fair investigation and that all allegations require substantiation.
Transformational model development
Expand public safety supports and reorganize to create a non-sworn crisis response and de-escalation unit
It is recommended that a non-sworn crisis and de-escalation unit be implemented under the AVP for Public Safety, VCU and VCU Health. This will consist of interdisciplinary experts that work together to coordinate an appropriate response to calls received and execute a proactive community safety model, with limited reliance on sworn police officers.
Create non-sworn response processes and protocols
It is recommended that crisis and de-escalation response processes and protocols be implemented to address the need for non-sworn personnel to act as first responders to concerns related to a mental health, substance use, interpersonal conflict, sexual assault, and other issues that do not require immediate law enforcement intervention. Increase non-sworn response to wellness calls.
Improve communications and marketing of VCU PD’s unique number (828-1234)
Explore opportunities to encourage the VCU community to use the VCU Police dispatch service as opposed to other community or city emergency services (e.g., call 828-1234 instead of 911).
Review Law Enforcement Mutual Aid Agreement (LEMAA) between RPD and VCU PD
It is recommended that the newly formed Civilian Oversight and Advisory Board review the Law Enforcement Mutual Aid Agreement (LEMAA), the model that VCU Police and the Richmond Police Department use to share jurisdiction in areas within the city that are adjacent to the Monroe Park and VCU Health campuses. It is recommended that protest management practices be addressed as part of this review.
Changing the culture and safety at VCU
Redesign the VCU Police Website
With input and feedback from the community, it is recommended that a website for the Associate VP for Public Safety, VCU and VCU Health be created and the VCU Police website and dashboard be redesigned for ease of use.
Establish a community relations strategic plan and work collaboratively with community relations initiatives
It is recommended that VCU Police partner with VCU and VCU Health community relations initiatives and establish a community relations strategic plan to improve and enhance community outreach.
Discover and develop new avenues to promote mutual accountability, safety and well-being for those who participate in fraternity and sorority life
It is recommended that the university administration discover and develop new avenues to promote mutual accountability, safety and well-being for those who participate in fraternity and sorority life.