New Public Safety changes usher in Safety Awareness Week
By Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
“If you stand still on Grand Canyon University long enough, they will start building around you,” Kenneth Laird, associate director of GCU’s Department of Public Safety, likes to say.
The campus is on a growth spurt. New residence halls, athletic facilities, offices, dining properties, laboratories and other buildings are rising from the ground to accommodate a swelling student population. As the University grows in size and population, so does its Public Safety Department in an effort to maintain a safe environment on campus.
“Everything is growing,” Laird said.
Public Safety has grown to 163 personnel, about one-quarter of whom are armed officers, most with at least three decades of public safety experience, he said.
When Laird joined the department in 2013, the only other armed employee was Henry Griffin, the department’s director.
“The University has been great when it comes to staffing,” Laird said.
Laird and Commander Kirk Fitch talked last week about the expanding role of police prior to Safety Awareness Week, which is scheduled for next Monday through Sept. 4. They were in the new 14,000-square-foot Public Safety office the department moved into last week. The office is on the south side of the Grove garage in Building 80, facing GCU’s 35th Avenue exit.
“This used to be Quatros Condominiums,” Laird said, referring to a crime-infested housing complex that was razed to make way for new buildings at GCU. “There wasn’t a worse place in Phoenix you could be.”
In recent years, Public Safety was based in a building that now houses Panda Express, in a classroom, and in Building 9, which was torn down over the summer as the new soccer field is built, said Laird.
The size of Public Safety staff is growing because it is protecting a larger student and staff population on an expanded campus, Laird said. The department is seeking certification from the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Bureau and an award from the National Campus Safety Summit.
Safety Awareness Week:
● Monday: Smokefree AZ, notMykid, Maricopa County Department of Public Health/IGNITE Tobacco Intercollegiate Education, R.A.D., Title IX, Emergency Management Team
● Tuesday: notMYkid, Phoenix Police Explorers, R.A.D., Title IX, Emergency Management Team
● Next Wednesday: Phoenix Police Department community officer, Phoenix Police Department and K9, R.A.D., Title IX, Emergency Management Team
● Thursday, Sept. 3: American Heart Association, Phoenix Police Explorers, R.A.D., Title IX, Emergency Management Team
● Friday, Sept. 4: Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, Phoenix Fire Department, Arizona Department of Health Services, Division of Behavioral Health Services, R.A.D., Title IX, Emergency Management Team
Public Safety this year is responsible for providing public safety at GCU’s new golf course, new hotel complex, a 7,200-seat arena and 10 new buildings, according to information provided by Fitch. It has personnel at guard stations at campus entrances and parking lots, Laird said. Employees also work in GCU’s Scottsdale, Tempe, New Mexico and Tucson locations, he said.
This year’s Safety Awareness Week, which takes place each day on the Promenade from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., is also bigger than in past years, Laird said. Personnel will be handing out information in at least a dozen booths, while groups such as notMYkid and the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence will provide presentations and demonstrations.
The Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D) Systems of Self Defense will offer training, and information will be available about Title IX, which prohibits sexual discrimination in education programs that receive federal funding.
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or [email protected]