By: Grace Hagan – Print Editor-in-Chief
February marks just over one year that Rodney Chatman has taken over his position as UD’s executive director of public safety and chief of police. On Feb. 7, Flyer News sat down with Chief Chatman to talk about the past, present, and future of public safety at UD.
One of the greatest misconceptions about public safety, according to Chatman, is that public safety does not want students to have fun.
“I want you to have fun, particularly here. The student neighborhood is a great resource, and just like any other resource, it needs to be protected. It needs to be valued. There needs to be some decorum in how it’s treated,” Chatman said.
In addition to dispelling any anti-fun intentions, Chatman emphasized the desire for public safety to be seen as a student resource. He hopes that students know that meeting and talking with public safety, whether formally or informally, is something that public safety does around the clock. “If your group is a group that meets at 10 p.m. we’ll come out at 10 p.m.,” Chatman said.
“I’d rather meet and figure out whatever the question, issue or concern may be, as opposed to letting an ill feeling fester,” Chatman said. While he emphasized the importance and effectiveness of these meetings, Chatman added that he is always available to students through email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One hurdle for Chatman and public safety stems from a widespread human behavior: people care about safety primarily when something negative happens to them or someone they care about. According to Chatman, “It’s not a UD problem. It’s a general societal problem.”
When asked if he believes students care about their safety, Chatman responded in the positive. “I think they do. I think everybody cares about their safety. It’s just, I wish it were more on the forefront of people’s consciousness and I wish more people took advantage of the resource we want to be.”
Chatman pointed to the OSU attack last November, when an OSU student carried out a car ramming and knife attack that resulted in the hospitalization of 13 people. After the attack, Chatman said that people began asking if UD police were going to do any training for a similar attack.
“Last November, it happened in our backyard at Ohio State, and everyone said, ‘Can you come talk to us?’ And so we have. Our demand for those types of training have increased, which we’re glad to do,” Chatman said.
“Long before people started talking about run, hide, fight, we were doing this. We were sending people out for training. We train people on this all the time. And we offer it to the university community. And when I say university community, I’m not just talking about the students. I’m talking about faculty and staff and any other organizations,” Chatman said.
On Feb. 5, public safety and emergency medical services conducted a simulated mass casualty drill at the RecPlex. The simulation was part of the multimodal training that Chatman values so much.
“These types of simulations give us the opportunity to actually, physically do the steps, get your heartrate up, actually run, actually have simulated gunfire going off. Have roleplayers and all of that. Even though you know it’s fake, it really gets your adrenaline up, and that’s really part of that multimodal learning because there’s really only so much you can do on a classroom or online,” Chatman said.
The simulation was helpful to public safety, emergency medical services and students as a whole. According to Chatman, “Just having the number of students around to witness what we were doing, they had an opportunity to picture if that were to happen in an environment that I’m in, a movie theater, shopping center, my neighborhood, whatever, it gave them an opportunity to picture what it is that they would do.”
Since he started last January, Chatman has wanted intentional and organic interaction between public safety and students.
“I think when there are interactions and you can come to me and you know me as Rodney and I was rooting for the Falcons and you know I like smoothies and you know I have four dogs and all of that stuff, and I know similar things about you, I think those questions about safety are on everybody’s mind. And I think then, there creates those opportunities for those conversations to take place,” Chatman said.
Bridging the divide between students and public safety, for Chatman, is key in creating an environment where students can be open to sharing their safety concerns, an environment where community can foster.
Follow Chief Chatman on Twitter @UDChiefChatman
Photo Courtesy of Alex Hallagan