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PSAC Focus Groups


The Public Safety Advisory Committee has undertaken quantitative and qualitative research as part of its efforts to understand the Ithaca campus community’s attitudes and experiences regarding public safety and policing on campus. In February 2021, PSAC partnered with the Office of Institutional Research and Planning to field a confidential survey of Ithaca campus students, faculty and staff. Following the survey, PSAC partnered with Southpaw Insights, an independent research and analytics firm, to hold a series of 12 focus groups, as well as an asynchronous online discussion board, with a broad cross-section of survey respondents, ensuring a diverse array of perspectives and experiences. In total, 90 members of the Ithaca campus community participated. 

Focus Groups Findings 

Southpaw’s research deepened PSAC members’ understanding of the experiences and perspectives of a wide range of Ithaca campus community members as the committee works to evaluate and reimagine campus safety and security now and in the future. Review the focus groups report here.

Campus Forum 

On May 5, 2021, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Joanne DeStefano, who serves as PSAC chair, hosted a virtual campus forum to present the findings of the committee’s focus groups. Panelists updated the Ithaca campus community on the committee’s work on these issues to date, as well as presented findings from the quantitative survey and from Southpaw’s qualitative research. Panelists also responded to inquiries from the Cornell community. The forum is available for viewing here. After the forum, participants submitted follow-up questions for further discussion; review those answers below: 

Is there a correlation (or enough data to break down) between underrepresented groups on campus to the number of in person interactions with CUPD?

CUPD do not have sufficient data to break down each interaction with underrepresented groups.  However, we do have enough data to determine the number of interactions that have an adverse result, such as a referral to the Office of the Judicial Administrator or local courts by underrepresented groups. For the 2020 calendar year, Black, Asian, and Hispanic individuals accounted for a slightly lower percentage of interactions resulting in referrals with CUPD than their respective percentages of the Cornell undergraduate population. Native American and “Unknown” individuals (for whom racial identity was not available), on the other hand, accounted for a higher percentage of interactions with CUPD than their respective percentages of the Cornell undergraduate population. Lastly, White individuals accounted for significantly higher percentage of interactions with CUPD than their respective percentages of the Cornell undergraduate population.

Is there any interest in learning/obtaining data on the number of campus community members who have had an experience with a person suffering from mental illness? More specifically, a mental illness that could lead to confrontational and/or violent behaviors?

CUPD would welcome any data that would assist us in working collaboratively with community services and improving our performance.   We will work with Cornell’s new Counseling and Psychological Services director over the summer to find a way to obtain this information during the fall semester.

It was mentioned that a large sum of the budget for CUPD was spent on equipment such as body and dash cameras. Is that footage reviewed periodically in order to identify if there are officers that may need more training in a specific area? Or even to identify burnout?

CUPD policy states that supervisors may review digital recordings captured by an officer to monitor that officer’s behavior if a specific complaint has been filed against the officer. The supervisor may also review the video of a specific incident for the purposes of training, individual instruction and improvement, administrative inquiries or any other articulable reason approved by the Chief of Police. Additionally, a supervisory member assigned to conduct an internal affairs investigation may review and download any digital recording associated with the investigation being conducted.

Suggestion – As I listened and heard the comment that was made by one of the survey participants that many of the underrepresented students do not want CUPD in their dormitory buildings, I wonder if it might be beneficial for CUPD officers to be offered and/or required to assist with move in and move out in plain clothes, person-to-person settings (as volunteers) as a means for initial interaction. Often conversations develop while assisting families and I think it could be a really good experience for everyone involved. 

All available CUPD resources are dedicated to two areas on opening day: traffic control/direction and safety related educational programming/information for new students and parents.  We would welcome an opportunity to participate in the actual move in and are willing to do so in plain clothes. To do so, we would have to identify other resources to handle traffic control.  

Have the morale and well-being of the staff targeted/affected by this process been considered? Has this been adjusted to support the staff targeted/affected by this process? 

We are exploring services and resources to assist staff targeted/affected by this process.

Thank you again for all your efforts to create a safe and welcoming community. After listening to today’s presentation, I was very excited by the suggestion that CUPD might consider another uniform color or alternative graphics on their vehicles. I teach design in the College of Human Ecology and I believe that visual representation of safety professionals can have a profound impact on pre-conceived notions and preliminary responses to members of our community: for instance, when a police officer walks into a situation, if they are dressed all in black, it sends a powerful message that cannot be dismissed. I believe our design departments, D+EA (Design + Environmental Analysis) and FSAD (Fiber Science and Apparel Design), would be happy to work with the CUPD to generate ideas for how our police might visually present themselves to better encourage feelings of assistance rather than fear. If you would like to work with our departments, please feel free to reach out to us. Thank you again for everyone’s service!

Visual presentation is very important to CUPD, and suggestions that can incorporate design, durability, ergonomics, safety, and functionality in all seasons would be welcome.