BY SASCHA RAIYN, News Editor
Kevin Williams has three college degrees, but when he’s asked where he went to school, he always says Cass Tech.
Being a graduate of Cass Technical High School not only identifies him as a native Detroiter, it puts him in solid company as far as police chiefs go.
Former Detroit police chiefs Ella Bully-Cummings, Benny Napoleon and James Craig attended Cass at the same time.
Now UM-Dearborn’s Police Chief and Director of Public Safety, Williams said he knew on his first day in high school Cass was the school for him.
“They said ‘Look around. 98 percent of you will graduate from college,’ and that day I knew I was in the right place.”
Williams says he “loves” academics. He emphasizes “loves.” He repeats it.
He said that’s why this job is perfect for him.
“Academic law enforcement is my niche,” Williams said. “It’s where I feel comfortable.”
“I love the fact that in academic law enforcement we have oversight by students, faculty and staff. So, civilians oversee the police. Civilians dictate how policing is delivered on a college campus.”
UM-Dearborn is not Williams’ first post as a university police chief. He held the position at the University of Oregon and the University of Arizona.
Before entering academic law enforcement, he spent 20 years rising through the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department. Williams worked for LAPD during the Rodney King incident and OJ Simpson trial. He retired as a top level lieutenant.
“[Municipal policing is] a whole different mindset,” Williams said, “because in municipal law enforcement, it’s top-down management. ‘I’m in charge, you’re not…’ That doesn’t fly on a college campus. That’s inappropriate on a college campus.
“What I love about campus law enforcement is that we have tools available to us municipal doesn’t have,” he said. “I have a toolbag that is robust, that gives me options to help students achieve their ultimate goal, which is their education. And sometimes as a part of that education people mess up. But I’m not here to hurt nobody.“
Williams gives the hypothetical example of a student caught with marijuana. In the campus environment, that student could be sent through the student judiciary process.
“Instead of the student having a drug conviction in the criminal courts, we have the ability to redirect this, to hopefully educate the student, get the student to modify their behavior, to understand the danger of drug use, so that on the other end we have a person who has been enlightened, who is educated, who is grateful that the institution was working with them to help them modify their behavior — and we’ve got a college graduate on the other end.
“Don’t get me wrong. If a person is engaged in egregious behavior we’re going to check them,” Williams said. “And the way that we check them is through a professional approach to law enforcement that may include their arrest. It’s not personal.”
UM-Dearborn is continuously rated as one of the safest campuses in Michigan.
Williams said there are a lot of factors that keep the campus safe.
“The way that this campus was laid out was brilliant in terms of reducing crime by design,” he said. “You’re either deliberately driving onto campus or you’re lost. Most people drive right past our campus and they engage in whatever inappropriate behaviors they do somewhere else…I’d like to keep it that way.”
He said the people who work and study at UM-Dearborn are also an important factor.
Being a commuter campus means students come here for “business — the business of receiving their education,” then return home.
There are more female students than male. Women are statistically much less likely to break the law.
And, he said, having Muslim students on campus helps, too.
“They’re not here to create problems,” Williams said. “They’re here to learn and because of the culture of peace that they bring, what do we have on our campus? We have peace.”
Williams also credits Chancellor Daniel Little.
“He sets the tone at this campus. There’s a certain culture that’s acceptable to him and what happens here is consistent with that.”
There were 39 crimes reported from January through September this year. Most of those, Williams said, were theft. The Annual Security Report released last week listed one robbery, one arson and one sexual assault on the Evergreen and Fairlane Center campuses in 2014.
Williams said his department is working on site-specific solutions to target theft. Locks were purchased from his campus safety budget to allow the Fieldhouse to loan locks to students using the facility. Unlocked lockers at the Fieldhouse have been a popular target for thieves.
Other areas where students, faculty and staff tend to leave property unmonitored — the University Center and the library — have also been targets.
Preventing these opportunities for crime are a big focus for the department. In these cases, the thieves are rarely caught.
With the addition of officers this month, the campus police department will be one-third female. That’s important, Williams said, because the department should reflect the community it serves.
Hiring student body president Bradley Pischea is another way Williams hopes to build connections to the university community. Adding a student leader to his staff is a strategy Williams has employed at every university post.
His goal is for every student to know him and his officers by name, Williams said.
“We want 9,000+ students to be eyes and ears for our department; we want the faculty and staff to be eyes and ears for our department. But are you really going to go talk to somebody in the department if you don’t trust them or if you don’t know them?”
“I don’t want anybody to call me chief, I’m Kevin. I’m here to serve.