Emory creates new Department of Public Safety

By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | Feb. 9, 2016

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Longtime Emory police chief Craig Watson moves into a new role this month, heading up the University's new Department of Public Safety, which includes the Emory Police Department, Fire Safety and Emergency Medical Services.

Campus public safety services will be consolidated with the creation of the Emory Department of Public Safety — a new model for the delivery of services provided by the Emory Police Department, Fire Safety and Emory Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

The new department, which will operate within the division of Campus Services, will be led by Emory Police Chief Craig Watson, who this month steps into a new role as the assistant vice president for public safety, according to Matthew Early, vice president of Campus Services at Emory.

In that role, Watson will provide leadership to the Emory Police Department, Fire Safety and the Emory EMS, effectively creating a "one-stop shop" for campus public safety needs, Early says. Each unit will continue to maintain its individual identity and phone numbers, and the daily services each provides will not change,.

"The public safety services that members of our community receive today from the Emory Police, Fire Safety and EMS will continue without interruption," Early says. "The shift will be seamless."

"When it comes to public safety, I want people to feel confident that nothing is changing — they can still come to expect great service," he adds.

In addition, Watson will take on key responsibilities for overseeing campus compliance with the Clery Act, a federal consumer protection law passed in 1990 that requires all colleges and universities that receive federal funding to share information about crime on campus and efforts to improve campus safety.

Watson, who has worked in law enforcement within the Emory community for over 37 years, will also be responsible for the development and management of new University-wide procedures and protocols governing the operation of electronic security services, including access control, alarms and video cameras, creating continuity and central oversight for electronic security services.

A search has already begun for a new police chief, "a key and essential position" that will report directly to Watson, says Early, who praised Watson's long-running service to the University.

New organizational model

The new organizational model is one that has been adopted by many campuses around the country in an effort to help deliver more concise services in both safety and security operations; it also mirrors the administrative structure used by most municipalities, he notes.

Part of the need for a revised model arises from changing requirements for Clery Act compliance, which has grown dramatically over the years. In order to best meet those expanding demands, Watson will become the primary campus contact person for Clery compliance, Early says.

While many may be familiar with the Clery Act primarily through the annual publication of an annual compilation of campus crime statistics, that is actually only a small part of the program, Watson explains.

Increasingly, the act has expanded to encompass issues that include student education and student conduct, he notes.

"We're already working with the Office of the General Counsel and Office of Compliance in putting together a robust compliance program," he says.

Watson's new responsibilities will also help bring uniformity to electronic access control to buildings throughout the Emory campus, consolidating responsibility for how electronic access is granted, where that information is housed, and creating a centralized point for access administration, says Early.

Watson: Coming full circle

For Watson, his new role feels a bit like coming full circle. "When I started here, over 37 ½ years ago, we were called the Emory Department of Public Safety and all we did was police work," he recalls. "Over time, we changed the name to Emory Police Department, then absorbed Emory EMS and fire services."

"Now, we're really just changing the name to match the services we provide," Watson says.

At Atlanta native, Watson came to Emory directly after graduating from Valdosta State University with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. "As a student, I had done an internship with the campus police department at Valdosta," he says.

"I applied here as a senior, was offered a job, started two weeks after I graduated, and literally never left. Emory is just a great place to work and always has been. For me, it's offered a world of opportunity."

Watson began work at Emory as a police officer, rising through the ranks over the years. In 1995, he was promoted to chief of police. Despite the physical growth of the campus over the years, Watson insists that the essence of his job has remained unchanged.

"When you get down to it, the individual issues may have changed, but the focus is that you have a community where you want people to feel safe coming to do what they do that makes Emory great, whether that's learning and teaching, conducting world-class research or developing a new drug to treat cancer."

"From a policing perspective, that means doing everything you can to help make the campus safe and the community feel safe, and the same is true for fire and EMS services," he says. "We're a customer service organization."

"I'm excited about this new opportunity because I'm really invested in this community," he adds. "For me, this is another opportunity to serve Emory, to expand myself, and to make sure that we are doing everything we can to ensure our compliance with the Clery Act, which I've been involved with ever since its inception."