Featured photo: UM-Flint Department of Public Safety Security Officer Russell Taunt and Executive Sergeant Heather Bromley
Written by Tanya Terry
Because of the mass shooting that occurred at Michigan State University (MSU) in February, student safety and general public safety have been on the minds of Michigan residents.
During conversations the Courier recently had with Ray Hall, director of public safety at the University of Michigan-Flint, Hall discussed speaking about these matters recently to the House Judiciary Committee, along with other universities.
MSU, Central Michigan University (CMU) and the University of Michigan Flint were selected by the House Judiciary Committee to tell the committee how each school is handling security as of March 2023.
The chair of the state House Higher Education Budget Subcommittee has called for a permanent fund to help colleges and universities upgrade and maintain campus security systems. State Rep. Samantha Steckloff has said she would like to see the fund at $100 million. Hall called this “encouraging,” before noting higher ed budgets are “strained.” The fund would have to be approved by Legislature as part of the new state budget, as well as signed by the governor.
Hall said the money from the proposed fund would be used to continue enhancement of security protocols at UM-Flint.
Currently, all classrooms at the university have a door-locking system on them. All the exterior doors and many of the interior doors can be remotely locked. There are over 490 camera systems on campus and over 90 strategically placed blue emergency phones. The university has an indoor-outdoor speaker system. Besides the law enforcement entity on the campus being trained and supported by security personnel, the university has its own electronic security specialist on staff. The buildings are closed at 6 p.m. and enter a “swipe and trust mode” at that time until 7 a.m. the next day.
Hall also described what he called “providing safety services beyond campus borders.” Some of the services UM-Flint provides downtown residents and visitors include battery jumps, service for lock outs and providing gas for those who run out.
“It’s like a small-town service,” said Hall.
Between 4 p.m. and 12 midnight UM-Flint Department of Public Safety is the primary responder for all emergency and non-emergency calls in the downtown area.
“The reason why we’re doing that is to allow the Flint PD to move elsewhere and to respond quicker to other 911 calls, to reduce the response time,” stated Hall. “So, if you’re living on north Martin Luther King and you call 911, because Flint’s not tied up downtown, because U of M is assisting them and supporting them, the Flint PD units can get to your 911 call faster.”
UM-Flint hosts the annual Touch-a-Truck for Flint area residents to explore police, fire and other emergency response vehicles. There is an Explorer Post through which young people interested in policing can attend monthly meetings.
“In partnership with the United Way, we host and lead the Urban Safety Corp., an AmeriCorps project. We paint houses. We cut grass. We clear sidewalks. This past summer, we reclaimed a park in River Village Townhomes.”
UM-Flint Department of Public Safety hosts a wide variety of activities for children and families to enjoy at River Village, which is an affordable housing community near downtown Flint.
Hall noted, to hear the needs and wants of the community, the UM-Flint Department of Public Safety also hosts a monthly meeting at Mott Community College’s Culinary Art Institute, downtown, on the first Thursday of every month at 8:30 a.m.
Hall said the department believes they have a moral obligation to provide the services they do in Flint. Hall said Flint is an incredible town with mostly hardworking people.
“Folks in this community have been through a lot, and they’ve persevered.”
Hall stated the UM-Flint is for the entire community to enjoy.
“Sometimes there’s jazz being provided. It’s right next to Farmer’s Market…Nothing makes us happier than when young people adjacent to campus come over and play a game of soccer or tag football…This is everyone’s campus.”
Hall said he would like the university to continue to have an open campus and for people to not have to worry about their safety. He said whether the university has to sacrifice in any areas to do so will depend largely on the state’s potential fund for campus security and how the funds are allocated. Hall said the university is in favor of “sensible” gun control, such as universal background checks and red flag laws.
Hall would like UM-Flint to remain a place where Flint residents feel safe even bringing their children to learn to ride a bike.