After 38 years in law enforcement and security, Department of Public Safety Director Darryl Harrison is ready to call it quits. Harrison, retiring in May, has spent nine years in charge of Georgetown’s on-campus police force. The gruff former cop, who started his career with the Metropolitan Police Department in 1970 and worked as an international security consultant for five years before coming to Georgetown, talked to the Voice about his time here and the future of DPS.
Why leave Georgetown now?
It’s something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time; an opportunity to spend more time with my family. … I am really kind of ambivalent at this stage in leaving when we’re in the middle of so much, and it’s still exciting.
You have said that improving DPS’ use of technology is one of your main accomplishments.
It’s something that I felt was sorely needed when I first arrived at Georgetown. We didn’t have at that point any cameras [or] closed-circuit TV. It just didn’t exist. We had some pushback initially, as they all do with closed-circuit TV. Right now, you can see the difference. … I just can’t stop additional requests for cameras.
You’ve also emphasized your work improving the quality of DPS’ human resources.
Our big goal is to be able to retain those officers, because that’s always been a problem. The recent negotiations we were able to increase the starting salary. Even with the starting salary, we are behind. We are playing catch-up with our main competitors, and that’s the other universities, to attract and retain exceptional officers. That’s something that the next director has to give attention to. We can bring on board officers, within a year or so they are trained, they have the background. … [and then] MPD and the other larger agencies are very attracted by them. … Our salary rates have to be competitive.
What are the other challenges for a new director?
Naturally, from the standpoint of ensuring that our officers receive training, in addition to the Academy, you never get enough training. … [E]nsuring that the technology continues to be incorporated as the department moves forward. [T]o continue to maintain the excellent relationship that the Department has with other university departments as well as the university leadership. We need someone with law enforcement background at the senior level, as well as, preferably someone with the college experience also.
What advice will you give to your successor?
Our officers are our most important investment. You have to recruit wisely, select just as wisely, and then ensure that your commitment is towards retaining those officers you recruit and select. As far as the relationship that has to be developed with the faculty, staff and senior leadership, more important is the relationship that you got to have with the students.
Will you miss Georgetown?
I’m definitely going to miss it. Hey, I won’t be gone, I still have family in this area, and this has always been home to me. I’m a native Washingtonian, really third-fourth generation. I have a number of good friends and colleagues at Georgetown. I have fully enjoyed my time here, it’s been exciting, it was challenging at times, it was also very rewarding. … I started with the class of 2003. …There were so many events going on. When I submitted my letter, I got to thinking … and I can’t even think about all of them. It’s hard to believe it was nine years, it all went by so quickly. When I look back on it, it just all went by so quickly.
—Interview by Tim Fernholz