By Valerie McMurray – [email protected] – Asst. News Editor | Nov. 5, 2014 |
One person oversees all university police, emergency management, transportation and parking at UNC Asheville – Police Chief Eric Boyce, who became assistant vice chancellor for public safety before the start of the fall term.
Bill Haggard, vice chancellor for student affairs, created the new position based on the amount of responsibility Boyce carried as chief.
“I did a comparison of Chief Boyce’s areas of responsibility with other police chiefs in the UNC system and I found that his areas of responsibility are the largest,” Haggard said.
Boyce joined UNCA as police chief in August 2010 following 12 years at North Carolina School of the Arts Police Department. He supervises more than 20 staff members responsible for public safety, property security, environmental safety, transportation services and parking.
Salary for the new position totals $98,700, which is on par with the median annual salary for a police chief in the United States.
Boyce has increased training for police officers and dispatchers, including preparedness for disasters and active shooters. Haggard said this was one of Boyce’s greatest accomplishments as police chief.
“We have run real life, full scale exercises. We have run tabletop exercises, and totally rewritten our emergency operations plan and all the subplans,” Haggard said.
Boyce ensures department efficiency and keeps safety practices up to date.
“In January of 2013, we went to body cameras and at the time some people really questioned that transition. Now, after the Ferguson incident police departments across the country are moving to the body cameras. We were out ahead of that by about a year and a half,” Haggard said.
Haggard also praised Boyce for making changes in the shuttle program based on student feedback. Ridership has gone way up this year according to Haggard.
Although Boyce’s commitment to campus safety hasn’t changed, the department has met more rigorous standards.
Public safety departments at universities across the United States face increasing scrutiny in how they carry out compliance with national policies dealing with sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking and relationship violence. Mismanagement of these types of cases now results in harsher consequences, according to Jaime Head, classification and compensation specialist at UNCA.
Students and their families are becoming more concerned with safety on college campuses, Haggard said. Worrying about safety can be distracting for students, so public safety officers work harder to keep a safe atmosphere.
The public safety department maintains close working relationships with local emergency response agencies. UNCA students are also familiar with public safety officers by recognition, through chatting with them in the dining hall or residence halls.
“I think that is an expectation that Chief Boyce has of his team members – that they are interested in the lives of students and they’re actively looking for ways to weave themselves into the community,” said Jackie McHargue, dean of students.
Students often see them in the residence halls even when not responding to an incident – the team members not only carry out programs and activities related to safety, but also remind the community of its security.