UNC Police Chief David L. Perry spoke at the Faculty Executive Committee meeting Monday, where campus safety and improving rapport between police and the community were at the forefront of the conversation.
“It’s been two months and one day since I have arrived and it’s not been a dull moment, and it’s been a great experience,” Perry said. “Progress is being made, that’s what I want you all to hear and know, that we are making progress."
He said he has started internal improvements by adjusting officers’ expectations and establishing a healthy sense of urgency to meet the needs of the campus community.
Perry admitted there have been challenges in the community, referring to the attack on a female student at Shortbread Lofts on Sept. 13.
In light of the recent challenges, Perry also highlighted campus police’s responsiveness. He said a bystander who had witnessed a man take heroin and have a seizure called campus police, and they responded in less than three minutes and administered Narcan to revive him.
Perry said campus police officers want to be approachable and visible on campus.
“We have improved our messaging as it relates to alerts — I know that’s been a concern in the past, of how timely the messages and information are shared with our campus community,” Perry said.
He said his team is working to consolidate campus surveillance cameras into one system, improve lighting on campus and present active shooter-targeted violence presentations.
“In short, we are out, doing our job, being very responsive," Perry said. "We’re taking deliberate steps to improve the relationship between the police department and the campus community."
Associate professor of radiologic science Joy Renner asked if there were vacancies on the police force. Perry said there are six vacancies, but that the department is in the process of hiring and is currently considering more than 20 candidates.
He said he is making the selection process more representative of the campus community.
“We’re going to change our process, we already have, to include more of the campus community when we interview staff,” Perry said.
Interim Chairperson of the Faculty Lloyd Kramer asked about trust between police, students and staff.
Perry said he has found strong distrust of police in “small pockets” of the campus community.
He said he was shocked when he was standing at South Building in his uniform and a student took a photo of him to send to other students. Perry asked the student why he was photographing him and the student said he simply felt like he had to alert his friends that a police officer was standing behind him.
“It was a punch in the stomach," Perry said. "That was a gut punch for me. Here I am, the Chief of Police, not standing over him or hovering over him, but he felt it was necessary to take a picture because I had a badge and a gun.”
Perry said he introduced himself, and the interaction with the student turned out to be educational and productive. To build trust, he encourages officers to be approachable, to meet the community they serve and for students to meet their officers.
He said he has met with Student Body President Ashton Martin, as well as other leaders from the campus National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Perry said the Chancellor will soon address some of the University’s recent events that led to the breakdown in trust.
“Every day that I come to work, I get on my Segway and go talk to people," Perry said. "I work internally within my department to remind them of who they are and what their job is, and I go out on campus and I try to meet people so they can see us in a positive light."