Saturday, January 27, 2001

NKU safety agency in disarray

Chief resigns, others reassigned after scrutiny

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Northern Kentucky University's campus is safe, even though its Department of Public Safety is a mess, according to a report released Friday.

        Knowing what was coming, Director Don McKenzie quit last week; and two top aides have been reassigned after their positions were eliminated.

        An interim director has been named, and the search for Chief McKenzie's successor is on.

        “Members of DPS are not led or directed by line supervisors nor are supervisors led or directed,” the report by the Louisville-based Southern Police Institute said.

        Excessive turnover is a problem, and auditors found no reason for “confidence in the abilities” of DPS' investigator.

        Still, there was no evidence that NKU “is an unsafe campus” and with their 37 recommendations, consultants predicted that DPS can become a model campus police force, “with proper leadership and direction.”

        NKU President James C. Votruba said consultants delivered the DPS management audit Thursday afternoon.

        Friday, he named Jeff Butler, former Kenton County police chief and assistant Cincinnati police chief, as interim DPS director.

        Leo Calderon and Charlene Schweitzer, associate director and chief investigator, were reassigned in the department and their positions eliminated.

        The audit was provoked in large part by Channel 9 I-Team questions last year about inconclusive probes of sexual assaults and doubts about NKU compliance with crime reporting rules.

        Auditors faulted the department's investigations they reviewed. Sexual assault probes were covered by the general criticism, but they were not singled out, according to Vice President Mike Baker, who oversees DPS.

        Dr. Votruba refused to blame him for the problems. Instead, the president credited Mr. Baker for what auditors liked, and expressed confidence that Mr. Baker would use the audit to sort things out.

        In general, NKU police recordkeeping is “innovative and well-designed,” but an absence of quality control produces unreliable numbers, auditors said.

        Even so, they found no evidence “of deliberate or intentional” under-reporting of NKU crime statistics.

        There has been national confusion on what must be reported and other campus police chiefs have told the Enquirer that the legislation and criteria are unclear.

        Auditors praised NKU's decision to hire sworn, trained police when private guards would have been cheaper, but inadequate inservice training and “excessive” turnover handicap DPS.

        NKU officials said they hope to raise DPS salaries and improve pensions to reduce resignations.

        Auditors also praised NKU's decision to put some officers on bikes or foot some of the time, even though inept management has allowed this policing approach to divide the department.

        NKU officials refused to discuss Chief McKenzie's departure, other than to say he worked with the auditors and knew what they'd say.


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