As students returned from Winter Break, they were greeted to a number of changes to the Department of Campus Safety. The most notable of these was that the office, which has previously occupied the bottom floor of Winslow Hall, has now been moved to the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Monroe Street.
The move, which had been in the works for a number of years, and had once been tentatively scheduled to be completed over a year ago, places the Office behind Gardens Apartments, and within walking distance of both North Village and Pennsylvania Avenue housing. The move had been delayed by a number of issues, including obtaining permission to run wires under the street.
The office occupies a two-story building, once the home of a local dentist’s office, and includes a number of upgrades in both equipment and office space. The office also has a garage and parking lot out back, used to house Campus Safety vehicles and equipment.
When spoken with on the reasons for the move, Campus Safety Director Jim Hamrick noted that plans began after incidents in the previous years placed emphasis on moving the office closer to student housing.
“I think that the move was largely precipitated by some serious incidents that had really evolved, or probably were from perpetrators who came from the Pennsylvania Avenue area,” said Hamrick, “specifically I’m thinking of the Whiteford Hall shooting, and a couple of on-campus armed robberies.”
Furthermore, Hamrick stated that the move puts Campus Safety closer to both the McDaniel and Westminster communities, and allows them to be more accessible for both groups.
“We’re actually closer to probably the center of mass of the on-campus student population, so that in many ways creates convenience for students,” said Hamrick.
Along with the move, many of students have noticed that the logo of Campus Safety has changed recently, with cars, uniforms, and the official sign now referring to the organization as “Campus Police,” rather than the standard “Department of Campus Safety.” Hamrick noted that this was not a name-change.
“We did not have a name change, we are still McDaniel College Department of Campus Safety. We are undergoing, what would be more correctly called a rebranding,” said Hamrick, “I wanted, in rebranding the department, have that logo to be more reflective of the change that has occurred, that all of our officers now are sworn police officers.”
Along with this desire, there were also administrative requirements to change the name. With the designations of the officers as special police came requirements from Maryland State Police to alter their logo accordingly.
“Maryland State Police told us that the logo or the patch has to say either ‘Special Police,’ or ‘Campus Police,’ for those officers who are employed by a college or university,” said Hamrick.
Also in accordance with this transition came a change in how Campus Safety interacted with the local Westminster Police, in the form of an update to their Memorandum of Understanding on drug related offenses. This update, which occurred last semester, allows Campus Safety to handle all civil drug cases.
“Now, we do not call Westminster police whenever we detect any drug violations involving under 10 grams of Marijuana, or any drug paraphernalia,” stated Hamrick, noting that any other drug case, involving over 10 grams of Marijuana or other controlled substances, would be prosecuted the same as before.
The change is linked to recent changes to Maryland law that decriminalized small amounts of Marijuana, making them subject only to a fine. Already, the change has cut down significantly on Campus Safety calls to Westminster Police for drug-related offenses.