As part of Temple University's ongoing commitment to create a safer environment for all members of the Temple and North Philadelphia communities, the university commissioned an external audit to identify public safety best practices and areas for improvement. Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and his team at 21CP Solutions began their review in May 2022 and the university has released the full report today.
"I applaud Temple for inviting an external team like us to take a real hard look to see what's actually going on and how they can improve. Continuous improvement in this way is really the key to any organization's success," said Ramsey, noting that the newly released report is more in-depth than his typical audit, at the request of Temple University leadership. He clarified that the report's length is an indication of its comprehensiveness, and the university and Vice President for Public Safety Jennifer Griffin have already begun implementing many of the recommendations.
"Recommendations for Community Safety at Temple University & the Temple University Police Department," is an in-depth assessment of the university's policies, technologies and training procedures on campus and in the surrounding neighborhood. Over the course of the review, 21CP conducted focus groups and interviews with hundreds of students, faculty, staff, other stakeholders and community members while also soliciting online feedback. The report includes 68 recommendations over the span of 134 pages.
Temple University leadership selected 21CP Solutions for this audit because the agency was uniquely suited to provide the level of breadth and depth the university was looking for. As commissioner, Ramsey oversaw a 37% decline in Philadelphia's homicide rate, and he previously co-chaired President Barack Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Ramsey and his team have also conducted similar safety reviews for several higher education institutions, including Drexel University, Carnegie Mellon University, Harvard University, Yale University and the University of Southern California.
Under the leadership and vision of Vice President of Public Safety Jennifer Griffin, the university has already begun work on initiatives that closely align with some of the report's recommendations? Since starting in her role in 2022, Griffin has tapped into her education and wealth of experience from her time with the Delaware State Police to conduct her own thorough review of Temple's safety policies, procedures, people, and processes. Her assessment aligns well with 21CP's recommendations, and we are already advancing forward. Griffin and 21CP have been in constant contact to share their respective findings, and Griffin has taken action to incorporate the information into her planning and strategy.
"We are immensely grateful for the efforts of Commissioner Ramsey and 21CP Solutions. Their audit here was intentionally broad, which speaks to both the university and the Department of Public Safety's overall commitment to addressing the violence epidemic affecting Philadelphia and this nation. We're leaving no stone unturned as we work to combat these challenges," said Griffin. "Numerous recommendations have already been initiated, and we will consistently track and communicate their implementation. We are confident that we're up to the challenge."
One key recommendation from the report is focused on retaining and recruiting TUPD officers. In addition to supplementing current ranks, the report also suggests that Temple offer incentives to encourage its graduates to join the department. This comes as three recent graduates of Temple's criminal justice program joined the force on March 17.
Ramsey notes that the staffing shortage experienced by TUPD is not unique and points to a combination of factors that are impacting police departments' ability to recruit officers across the country. Ramsey acknowledged that law enforcement has come under intense scrutiny in recent years, which has contributed to challenges retaining and recruiting officers. But he clarifies that it is a complex and multifaceted issue. An additional contributing factor, according to Ramsey, is the country's current strong economy.
"I've been in policing for more than 50 years and whenever we had a strong economy and low unemployment, we struggled to recruit because people have a lot of options," Ramsey explained. "The bottom line is everybody is competing for the same people in terms of staffing."
21CP's recommendations are organized into short-, mid-, and long-term categories and span six different areas: community and city partners, recruitment and retention, training and education, equipment and technology, communication and engagement, and policy and critical interactions. Temple has already begun to engage key stakeholders about the work and resources necessary to implement these recommendations.
For example, the report advises that TUPD conduct a comprehensive assessment of its current technology and develop a plan to ensure that it is in line with other police and university systems. Griffin is currently working on these assessments. Temple was recently awarded $1.77M for safety infrastructure enhancements through a local law enforcement support grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to expand security camera coverage, technology tools, body worn cameras, and license plate reader.
"This campus safety audit is crucial in creating a comprehensive evaluation of where Temple stands in its safety services and what areas we need to prioritize," said Gianni Quattrocchi, Temple Student Government president, Class of 2023. "This audit will help guide the university's next steps in combatting the nationwide epidemic of gun violence and crime and further develop strategies to protect the Temple community."
Because the safety of Temple's campus and the safety of nearby neighborhoods are inextricably linked, the report's foremost recommendation is that Temple assert leadership to help make North Philadelphia safer for everyone. The report notes that Temple is in a unique position to address the violence impacting the city by bringing city leaders, university representatives, nonprofits, businesses, landlords and community residents together to collaborate, coordinate efforts and develop effective safety strategies.
A notable excerpt from the report regarding this recommendation reads
Many of this report's recommendations stem from the central premise that, in the long-term, for the Temple community to be safe, the North Philadelphia communities near Temple must be safe. In turn, for North Philadelphia's communities to be safe, Temple needs to help convene and organize a diversity of City of Philadelphia and community stakeholders to focus on preventing crime and transforming the root causes of violence - without over-policing communities that have too often bore the burden of unfair, unjust, and inequitable policing practices.
While the report highlights an opportunity for Temple to lead and exert its influence on addressing crime and safety issues affecting the campus and community surrounding the university, Ramsey cautioned that any effective safety plan needs the full participation of city leaders.
"The City of Philadelphia has an obligation and a responsibility to work with all the universities and businesses to create an environment where they can thrive," he said. "Philadelphia is one of many cities across the country that is dealing with these challenges, and it will take a broad approach with a variety of stakeholders to be able to change the dynamic that's currently taking place."
In response to all of Ramsey's recommendations, the university is taking actionable steps and moving forward with recommendations that support an integrated approach to public safety at Temple and in North Philadelphia. Temple is working with and meeting with stakeholders at every level to facilitate and structure a comprehensive, coordinated plan and network of North Philadelphia community members, Philadelphia stakeholders, and university community members united in implementing effective public safety strategies in North Philadelphia.
"To develop an effective plan, we need the voices, input and perspectives of community representatives, program leaders and other stakeholders closely involved and experienced with gun violence intervention and the North Philadelphia community to inform our work," said JoAnne A. Epps, who was named acting president of Temple on April 11. "The safety of our campus and community is our highest priority and meaningful engagement with community groups focused on gun violence intervention is critically important to advancing our public safety efforts."
- Wendy Ramunno and Ayana Jones