New division will unite public safety efforts
By David Nutt
Cornell is establishing a new division that will integrate its public safety services and units on the Ithaca campus into a single organization, creating a comprehensive approach that prioritizes transparency and empathy in recruitment, training and operations.
The Division of Public Safety will initially comprise the Cornell University Police Department, Cornell’s 911 Dispatch Center, Access Control and the Clery Act Compliance Office. Over time, other public safety functions, such as the Office of Emergency Management and the student-led Emergency Medical Service, will also move into the new division.
The new division will be led by the associate vice president for public safety, a civilian role; David Honan, the Cornell police chief since 2019, will relinquish his badge to serve in this new position. Anthony Bellamy, who joined CUPD in 2004 and has been deputy chief since 2019, will make Cornell history as CUPD’s first Black chief.
“I am confident that the new public safety framework will help create an approach to public safety grounded in justice and equity helping to make Cornell a leader in campus public safety,” President Martha E. Pollack said. “I’m grateful to the students, faculty and staff who have served on our Public Safety Advisory Committee for their work in recommending a solution designed for the needs and values of our community.”
Joanne DeStefano, executive vice president and chief financial officer, chairs the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC).
In summer 2020, Pollack called for evaluating and reimagining the university’s safety and security protocols following the widespread national protests of the killing of George Floyd.
That call was echoed by the PSAC, which in July 2021 recommended the university implement an alternative public safety and response model.
The new division will work with the PSAC and university leadership, as well as the campus community, to evaluate the remaining recommendations from the PSAC report and develop the next steps in the ongoing public safety effort.
“This change will establish the framework for a holistic, equitable and sustainable public safety approach on our campus,” said Honan, who joined CUPD in 1995. “I will be stepping out of my law enforcement role and will no longer be a sworn officer. But my job will focus on continuing the principles I have held my entire career to make sure that we have a safe campus for people and that we devote the right resources to that safety and feeling of well-being.”
In addition to working in law enforcement before he came to Cornell, Bellamy has also been a fire investigator, firefighter and emergency medical technician.
“I’ve been a consistent face here at Cornell Police. This new role is very exciting to me. Right now, I do a lot of things behind the scenes: meetings with our peers in the Dean of Students Office and Campus Life, the house residential community, the Community Response Team,” Bellamy said. “Now my mission is to make clear to the students, to the staff and to the faculty here at the university that the department is here to support them, and be a resource and work with them.”
One of his priorities, Bellamy said, will be addressing the fact that a portion of the student population does not feel comfortable contacting the police.
“It’s important that we build trust in our community. That way, we can have a clear and open dialogue about what’s the best way to police and get involved with the community,” Bellamy said. “Recruiting is another challenge. We want to make sure we’re getting the right people, with the right temperament, and who are the right fit for Cornell.”
Honan noted that CUPD has always worked to connect students and campus members with appropriate resources, including the Care and Crisis Services, Cornell Environment Health and Safety or the newly formed Community Response Team.
But the over the last two years, he said, the pandemic prevented officers from engaging with the campus community in the way they had in the past.
“This public safety structure will afford officers more time to build essential relationships with our community, and focus on criminal law enforcement,” Honan said, “and the alternative response model can focus on the things that just don’t require a police officer.”
Conor Hodges ’21, who served as a student representative on the PSAC, has been hired for a one-year term as a racial justice in public safety fellow. In this role, Hodges will continue to work with Honan and with the PSAC to advance Cornell’s public safety mission.
“Currently, CUPD is the only 24/7 social service agency on campus. Because Cornellians of color report feeling less safe when they call 911 and receive an armed response, we need to build a crisis response structure that tailors the responding resource to match the need,” Hodges said. “This new division is a first step in the PSAC’s process of building a more robust emergency system that doesn’t simply expect armed police officers to do everything, all the time.”