GVL / Alena Visnovsky
GVL / Alena Visnovsky

GVPD addresses Student Senate about campus safety

Brandon DeHaan, Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police, joined Grand Valley Police Department (GVPD) Emergency Manager Sergeant William O’Donnell at the Student Senate’s weekly meeting on Oct. 6.

They discussed areas of reorganization and new safety implementations at Grand Valley State University.

“On behalf of public safety, I am really pleased to be able to come here to have a conversation with you about what your police department does for you while you’re here on the campuses,” DeHaan said, addressing the assembly.

GVPD is working to create new safety measures that cater to the growing number of students at GVSU. DeHaan and O’Donnell’s presentation at the Student Senate meeting outlined the safety department’s initiatives and progress toward those goals. DeHaan said GVSU’s dispatch area is “one of the most robust within the state of Michigan.”

“When you take a look at what we have created here in Grand Valley, we have over 1,700 (security) cameras. These are security cameras operated by individuals that are working 24/7,” DeHaan said. “(With) what happened over at Michigan State (the active shooter on Feb. 13), those folks had no one operating those cameras, they did not have the ability to contact and move forward at a rapid pace.” 

DeHaan said the increase in GVSU campus residency at the beginning of the fall semester caused an expansion of GVPD’s jurisdiction. “On-campus” students housed in Campus West apartments means GVPD has allocated new resources to “put in security cameras over there,” according to DeHaan.

“We put a significant amount of dollars and cents into putting security cameras (at Campus West) because these are students that are living on ‘campus property’ and we want to ensure that they have the same rights and privileges as anyone living on campus here,” DeHaan said.

GVL / Alena Visnovsky

Following the MSU tragedy on Feb. 13, O’Donnell, DeHaan and GVSU President Philomena Mantella put together a safety briefing in a virtual broadcast that is posted to the GVSU Public Safety page. The briefing gave an overall idea of how the university and GVPD plan to respond to both public and safety concerns and active shooters.

DeHaan said other universities are looking to GVSU and GVPD as a positive example.

“Frankly, folks, we’ve had a number of schools come out here at Grand Valley, including MSU, to see what we are doing in response to any active or critical incidents here on the campus,” DeHaan said. “We have become a standard, our camera system, using the visual eye camera system, that is the third largest within the United States.”

O’Donnell said GVSU’s Department of Public Safety is working on GVSU’s “clickable,” a new safety system students can use if danger arises at GVSU. 

“What we want to do is get this clickable right in (students’) hands, this is about 85 percent done. We’re still working with marketing, they have some of the diagnostics that it’s got to be able to take 20,000 bits per second or such, because if everyone uses it at the same time it needs to be able to take those hits,” O’Donnell said.

Additionally, Laker Guardian is a resource that is already accessible to people at GVSU. The emergency call button can send an immediate alert to GVPD with one click, providing the user’s information and GPS location to GVPD.

“It doesn’t give us your information until you hit that button or your timer expires. If you have those two things happen, we know where you’re at, it gives us your GPS location,” O’Donnell said. “We’ll call you and say, ‘Hey, this is University Police. Your Guardian is activated. Are you safe right now?’ It’s a panic button, it’s a timer system, you can text with emergencies, and you can stay anonymous if you want to stay anonymous.”

Through extensive training, thorough research and state-of-the-art security technology, the Department of Public Safety and GVPD aims to create a safe environment for all students, faculty and staff in the GVSU community.

GVL / Alena Visnovsky
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