MSU Today with Russ White

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Under the direction of Marlon Lynch, Michigan State University Vice President for Public Safety and Chief of Police, and with approval of MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D., the focus and structure of the MSU Department of Police and Public Safety has been adjusted to better represent the priorities of the Spartan community.

Show Notes

The reorganization took effect July 1st and places greater emphasis on community engagement; diversity, equity and inclusion; relationship violence and sexual misconduct; professional standards and public integrity; and behavioral support services.

Many of the changes directly align with the recommendations made by the Task Force on Racial Equity police working group, and the initiatives outlined in the Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Strategic Plan.

Deputy Chief Andrea Munford will lead the Community Support Bureau, including the Special Victims Unit, Center for Trauma-Informed Investigative Excellence, and the Community Care Unit. Munford will continue her role as special adviser to the president and RVSM issues.

Chief Lynch will be bringing members of his leadership team with him to talk about their areas of focus in the department in a regular podcast series on MSU Today we’re affectionately calling Chopping It Up with the Chief. Deputy Chief Munford is Chief Lynch’s guest on this episode.

“It is a fantastic opportunity to serve my alma mater in this capacity,” says Chief Lynch in referring to his first six months on the job leading public safety at MSU. “Having the ability to make positive contributions and have direct impact on our community is a great opportunity.”

On the reasons for the restructuring, Lynch says “I felt it was important that we align to the mission of the university. We still provide our traditional police services, and we’re emphasizing direct community engagement and community support, meaning everything from behavioral support to relationship violence and sexual misconduct. What we do every day is engage with our community, and so having diversity, equity, and inclusion be a part of everything that we do is going to be important. The structure was built with that in mind.”

“I graduated from MSU in 1996 with a bachelor's in criminal justice, and I started with the department in 1997,” says Munford. “I started out on patrol working in our community engagement unit. I spent five years on a cold case homicide task force with Ingham County and State Police and learned a lot about what survivors of lost family members go through and how traumatic that situation can be. In 2014, we started our Special Victims Unit within the Investigative Bureau, and we really framed that around being trauma-informed, victim-centered, and offender-focused. We based our foundation on the work of Dr. Rebecca Campbell and the research she's done on the neurobiology of trauma.

“Trauma-informed looks at the social and behavioral impact, and what it's like for someone to go through a traumatic experience. It affects everybody differently. We need to be aware of what happens to folks as they go through trauma so that we can understand how to do our investigations working with people on an individual basis. In the past, a lot of the guidelines on how to do an investigation focused solely on getting the facts and the evidence. But if you're not factoring in someone's experience going through trauma, then you're really missing a lot of the micro corroborations of what they're experiencing because of the traumatic event. It's really important to work with each person that goes through a traumatic event on an individual basis so that you're really understanding what they're going through.

“Victim-centered means meeting people where they are and looking at what their needs are. We do investigative services; however, it may not be best for every person to go through a full investigation. The way we framed our unit is leading with support. For special victims’ cases, we're connecting survivors with support services and resources so that they can make really informed decisions about what processes they want to participate in. Then when we look at our community care unit, there's a lot of intersectionality between RVSM issues and folks who go through some behavioral mental health issues. We look at that intersectionality, and we look at that side through a trauma-informed lens.”
What are some short and long-term goals?

“Like I mentioned, we really want our unit to lead by support,” Munford continues. “So as folks come into our process, whether they initiate it themselves or somebody on their behalf reports something to us, we want to provide support services first. That really involves a lot of collaboration with our community and campus partners so that we're really working as a team to provide support to students, faculty, staff, and visitors that come here too. The short-term goal is to get our unit trained in best practices. Again, that's a collaboration that we need to do with the whole community. Long-term is sustaining those relationships. We now have a social work intern on our team. We’re making that part of our unit more robust so that we can enhance the services that we provide to our community.”

What about both some challenges and opportunities to achieving some of your goals?

“One of the biggest challenges right now is building trust with the community,” Munford says. “A lot of events historically and more recently have given people doubts about the police department and that's understandable. We want folks to know we're here to support them. We're really focused on being a big piece of the university's mission to enhance student success and to make the culture healthy and respectful and sustain that through the work that we do in collaboration with our partners.”

“I would agree the challenge is the community trust,” adds Lynch. “It's a national narrative in regard to police reform. We definitely heard the concerns from our community. We saw the recommendations from the task force. We've reallocated our funds, and we redirected where our emphasis is. Andrea's comments about leading with support, that's what it's about. It's providing the support for our community and being a trusted, reliable resource for our community. That will be a challenge, but I think the opportunity is that there's a lot of willingness to do it. It's very well supported by university leadership. There are members of the community who have already reached out with support. There are opportunities as well that they will have through our police and public safety advisory committee to where there's a monthly opportunity to meet and help us with our strategic planning and initiatives. This is all day every day, Russ. It's not just sort of thinking about it one and done. We're moving on. It's time.

“The structure of our department will be built on community need, engagement, and support. Traditional police services will remain, but it may not necessarily be the emphasis. Again, the structure is based on the feedback that we've received. The structure needs to be nimble. If things change, we change with it, and we'll continue to do that.”

MSU Today airs every Sunday morning at 9:00 on 105.1 FM and AM 870 and streams at WKAR.org. Find, rate, and subscribe to “MSU Today with Russ White” at Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you get your shows.

What is MSU Today with Russ White?

MSU Today is a lively look at Michigan State University-related people, places, events and attitudes put into focus by Russ White. The show airs Sundays at 9 A.M. on 105.1 FM and AM 870 WKAR, and 8 P.M. on AM 760 WJR.