Savannah Plaisted ’21
Providence College has found itself in a position of opportunity for the advancement of positive race relations on campus this semester. The Office of Public Safety has been tasked with finding a replacement for the former chief of Public Safety, Koren Kanadanian, after he resigned over winter break.
The position of chief of Public Safety is an important one, in that it garners a substantial amount of campus attention, becomes a well-known name on campus, and can help to alleviate some of the tensions between Public Safety and students, faculty, and staff.
The office has not been without controversy over the course of the past year. A racially insensitive safety alert released on Sept. 10, 2020 sparked campus-wide attention and concern for the state of the department. Additionally, the Instagram account @BlackatPC has highlighted numerous accounts of racial profiling by officers.
The College is utilizing an outside firm to assist with the process of finding a replacement for Kanadanian. The firm, RENZ Consulting, LLC, has the goal of “stimulat[ing] attitudinal and behavioral change among police officers and the community, by bridging the gap between academically sound scholarship, public policy, and practice, through collaborative research, training, and engagement.”
This firm works specifically on campus policing and bias-free policing, in addition to changing police officers’ attitudes towards the communities they serve. The utilization of an outside firm, and one that specifically hones in on bias-free policing—an issue that PC needs substantial work on—is a solid first step for the College.
RENZ Consulting will provide an assessment of PC’s needs and, with that, recommendations for the job description of the position needed. From that point, Ann Manchester-Molak, executive vice president of the College, said, “We will work with an external search firm and a PC committee, comprised of faculty, staff, and students, to conduct the search process.”
The members of the search committee must be well thought out. It should consist of students, faculty, and staff that have been vocal proponents of anti-racism, anti-sexism, and anti-homophobia work on the College’s campus.
This hire will represent more than just an addition to the staff of the Office of Public Safety. PC’s administration and faculty of professors consist of primarily heterosexual, white men. The officers in the Office of Public Safety also fit this description. Women, BIPOC, and members of the LGBTQ+ community all bring to the table worldly perspectives that are going to be different from the bubble of white, male academics on this campus. The inclusion of these voices during the hiring process will be to the benefit of our entire community.
Please look to the Demands for Redress 2020 presented by the Coalition Against Racism and 26 additional student organizations for specific directions regarding what considerations must be made for the new hire to the position of chief of Public Safety.
The new chief of Public Safety must be someone who has undergone extensive anti-bias training, has relevant prior work experience, and is well versed in de-escalation tactics. Additionally, the College should strongly consider an outside hire, as they would come into the position with an entirely new and unbiased perspective in order to see the areas in which PC can improve.
In sum, the hiring process for this central role in the Office of Public Safety and on our campus must be viewed as an opportunity to make the Office of Public Safety a more safe, equitable, and just force on this campus.