New DPS Chief focuses on community engagement

August 24, 2012

Since July 30, there’s been a new top cop on the beat at Georgetown. Jay Gruber was selected as the new DPS Chief at the end of last year, after spending 25 years in campus safety at the University of Maryland. He says he is here to integrate and communicate with the entire Georgetown community and mount an assault on property crime around campus.

Gruber began at the bottom at UMD, working from the police academy up through the ranks, serving as the Assistant Chief of Police and Assistant Director of Public Safety during his final 10 years. In that final role he managed the technology services bureau, which covered areas such as informational systems, records, homeland security, and emergency preparedness.

Before leaving the University of Maryland, Gruber worked for six months at the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a part of the Police Executive Fellowship Program. In the program, he trained campus safety departments to look out for what the FBI calls “tripwires”—behaviors and traits that might indicate a potential terrorist. His energy and enthusiasm are evident, even when he says he has been at work since 6 a.m.

Gruber says that his first priority here at Georgetown is to learn, and points to his experience as an asset in understanding his new community. “I know the landscape, but the map here is very different,” he said in an interview. “I need to understand all the dynamics and relationships on campus and within the department before I would make any changes. I need to know how a system works.”

To that end, the new chief has been meeting with members of the ANC to discuss the campus plan and its implementation. “I’ve been here three and a half weeks,” said Gruber, “so I’m trying to absorb all that.”

But while the new chief says he is on the lookout for potential areas of improvement, he doesn’t want to shake things up unnecessarily. “I’m not a person who makes changes just to make change,” he said.

Improving the efficiency of Georgetown’s safety systems is one of those areas where Gruber sees room for growth. “Georgetown has a real nice foundation for a lot of their safety and infrastructure,”  he said. He believes that the GOCard office does a good job, along with the lock shop and DPS, but that more integration can streamline processes.

“I think there would be economies of scale by taking those functions and taking a look at how they can be integrated better,” Gruber said, either “under one roof, or under one system of management.”

Gruber’s last job at the University of Maryland did not involve much day-to-day contact with students, but in his new job he thinks that will change.

“It is important for me to keep the community involved,” Gruber said. “Over the course of the next few weeks and the next month Stacy Kerr and I will be working together to find the best venue to get information out.”

In an email, Kerr added that giving Gruber time to become acquainted with Georgetown before beginning to communicate with students “gives us the benefit of having these communications be authentic and insightful, which will make them the most effective to the wider community.”

Gruber acknowledges the need to emphasize property crime, especially that involving laptops. He wants to reduce theft by educating the student body, working with the bookstore to provide students with locking devices, and using DPS to find those who are here to commit crime.

“Everybody on campus has to take a stake in the security of campus,” Gruber said. “We’re counting on you guys to be our eyes and ears.”

But while he wants to protect students’ belongings, Gruber says the first priority is always guarding their health and wellness by preventing crimes like sexual assault and armed robbery. “On a college campus there is zero tolerance for crime, there is a less-than-zero tolerance for crimes against persons,” Gruber said.

When it comes to policing and breaking up student parties, the new chief says it’s sometimes necessary, but “we don’t like doing that, we would rather be doing other things.”

As for student activists and protesters, Gruber says they need not be concerned with him, but rather the administration. “A university environment is a place that espouses free speech, and we support that 100 percent,” Gruber said. “It is not public safety’s role to say ‘you can’t do that.’” If there is a disruption at an event, Gruber will be looking for direction from a University official.

“If a student unfurled a banner on Healy, I’m not sending people up there to arrest them or cut it down. I’m going to wait for a University official,” he said.

Overall, Gruber wants to continue improving his department and increasing community engagement by having officers go out and the community come in. He’s already reached out to GUSA President Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13).

“He met with me in his first week” Gustafson said,  “which makes me very excited.”

But Gruber says he wants to do more, such as engaging members of the community in meetings and bringing in cultural, LGBT, and women’s groups to talk about the services that DPS can offer.

“I think when you educate the officers about the resources on campus they can be more effective,” he said. “So…I want to continue the professionalism of the department and increase community engagement. Those are two big things for me.”

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