Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti and Chief of Police Ralph Godbee are working to ensure students and staff in all Detroit schools and buildings are safe.
One measure which began this year is cutting ties with Securitas Security after nearly 10 years.
The belief is with more money, benefits, and additional training the security team at the schools will improve and the revolving door of applicants will cease.
“We weren’t getting consistency,” Godbee said. “When you change people that much, you (the department) invest a lot of training and when they leave very shortly after, you don’t get a chance to know the security officer. They don’t get a chance to get familiar with you. Sometimes, the professionalism was not at the level that we expect.”
With this being Godbee’s second year with the district, he is making changes that build relationships between the department and students. He acknowledges that many students are facing serious situations in their personal lives. To combat this and offer assistance, the department has implemented techniques like trauma informed policing.
“We don’t want to criminalize student behavior,” Godbee said. “As a police department, our job is to protect you, not to make criminals out of you. We want to really invest in restorative practices and what we call trauma informed policing. A lot of our students come from very difficult backgrounds and they overcome very difficult circumstances to come to school. We want to be a police department that recognizes those things and be mentors to our students.”
This year the district began the “Expect Respect” campaign in all schools which goes hand-in-hand with the district’s strategic plan to address the “whole child” and transform schools’ cultures.
“We’re going to show respect in line with the ‘Expect Respect’ campaign because if we’re asking students to respect each other and staff to respect each other, my expectation is that every police officer and security officer that works for our district, they show you respect,” Godbee said.
To further the security, all individuals must have an identification card to enter any DPSCD school and building.
“We were successful in getting a grant from the Michigan State Police last year,” Godbee said. “Staff and vendors have to have a card that helps them get in the doors and out of the doors. We are securing our perimeters because a lot of the things we utilize police for if we had better technology that would help us.”
Godbee is working on using “Ok2Say” to allow students to anonymously give information about bullying and unwelcomed situations in the schools.
“Ok2Say provides a means for students to give information about bullying and unsafe conditions in the schools and you can do it where you don’t have to be scrutinized by your peers,” said Godbee. “We [parents, students, staff, and public safety] need to work together. Safety is not just a part of the police department’s function but it’s all of our function.”