Chief of police discusses department goals, challenges with P&S Council

Next P&S Council meeting: Jan. 4 (2:10-4 p.m., MU Gallery)

Next P&S seminar: Jan. 9 (2-3 p.m., MU Pioneer Room), ISU Green Dot program

Chief of police and assistant vice president for university services Michael Newton, who joined Iowa State last April, shared the department of public safety's (DPS) recent accomplishments and challenges at the Dec. 7 Professional and Scientific Council meeting.

Officer staffing levels

Newton told councilors Iowa State is budgeted for 38 sworn police officers but has only 33 on staff -- a number, he thinks, is too low.

"The national average of police officers in higher education is 1.5 per 1,000 [students], so we're staffed at a 25,000-student institution level," Newton said. "We need to get up to the staffing levels that belong to an institution of our size."

Two officers are graduating from the police academy this month and two others are enrolled, Newton said. However, they will not be on active duty for several months due to required field training. Once they join DPS, the number of officers will rise to 37.

Community outreach

Newton emphasized community-building as one of his top priorities at Iowa State. Recent social media campaigns, like "Donut Disrespect" in conjunction with the Ames Police Department, and the engagement and inclusion officers initiative already have bridged some communication gaps.

"We're trying to build community, trying to get in front of groups and not just be seen when there's an issue," Newton said.

In 2016, Newton said ISU officers spoke to 29,000 people in the ISU and Ames communities through various outreach programs, such as Violent Incident Response Training and the Citizen Police Academy. His goal for 2017 is to increase that number by 10 percent.

"We're well on our way to that," he said.

Service calls

In 2016, Newton said DPS officers responded to 23,000 service calls, primarily welfare and mental health checks, thefts, alcohol violations and some sexual assaults. Mental health calls continue to "skyrocket," he said. In response, Newton said his department has adopted a new program called the "One Mind Campaign," which aims to improve the police response to people affected by mental illness.

Newton said 13 sexual assaults were reported on campus in 2016.

"That's really low," he said. "Sexual assault is a severely underreported crime."

DPS has initiated a campaign called "We Care, Please Tell Us" to encourage victims to come forward.


Newton reported that the SafeRide app, launched in August 2016, is popular among students, faculty and staff, with between 100 and 110 requests for rides each night.

"I had to go to Student Government this year and ask them to assist with funding for another route," he said. Student Government agreed to the request and provided DPS with $34,000. Newton said he's pleased people are using the service, but he'd like to find out why they think it's necessary.

"Obviously, there's a reason why this many people want the rides," Newton said. "I hear a lot from students, staff and faculty that they don't feel safe, but people can't articulate to me what that means and why they have that feeling."

Vision and mission

Newton said DPS had no vision statement prior to his arrival last spring. The department has worked together to establish a vision -- "Pursuing excellence in public safety while moving forward building community." The next task, he said, is developing a mission statement and core values. So far, Newton has met with all 54 full-time DPS employees to get their input.

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