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Posted on Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 11:15 a.m.

Interim chief presents new U-M public safety division to university committee

By Kyle Feldscher

This story has been corrected to show this was a meeting of the Senate Assembly and not SACUA.

One cause of the lapse between the discovery of suspected child pornography on a University of Michigan Hospital employee’s computer and the beginning of an investigation was the lack of a direct link between hospital security and U-M Police.

Under the new U-M Division of Public Safety and Security, that link has been established.


Interim Director Joe Piersante speaks to SACUA about the new Division of Public Safety and Security Monday.

Kyle Feldscher |

Interim Director Joe Piersante met with the Senate Assembly Monday afternoon to explain details on the reformed public safety department. The main difference between the new division and the former U-M Department of Public Safety is Hospital Security, Housing Security, U-M Police and Security departments all report directly to Piersante and are now employees of the division instead of all being separate entities.

Piersante said police will investigate all reports of crimes at U-M Hospital or university housing, but those security departments will still have their own identity.

“Day-to-day operations will still be handled by housing officers and hospital officers,” he said.

The new division was approved at a U-M Board of Regents meeting on Oct. 19 and the last month has been spent getting used to the new normal.

The new division follows the mold of some other major universities, including Ohio State University. Officials from the University of Washington visited U-M last week as they consider switching to a similar operation.

The regents imposed the changes after the results of an external investigation into the six-month reporting lapse by university hospital officials who knew alleged child pornography had been found on a thumb drive belonging to medical resident Stephen Jenson.

A hospital employee found the images on a thumb drive in a laptop at the hospital in May 2011. By June 2011, at least eight university officials knew of the alleged child pornography. However, it took until November 2011 for police to be notified.

By December 2011, Jenson had been fired, jailed and charged and the university had a public scandal on its hands once revealed the six-month delay. Jenson remains free on bond. His defense lawyer and prosecutors are working on a plea agreement after a judge rejected an earlier one.

Piersante said part of the new division was proper training for all employees regarding when an incident had to be reported to police. He said the employee who originally discovered the suspected pornography did what she was supposed to do when she reported what she found to her superiors.

The mistake came when the hospital’s legal department decided unilaterally there was not enough evidence to prosecute Jenson and decided to not report what had been found, Piersante said.

“We’ve instituted training for all the different units on when you must contact police and that training has been extended to the medical system,” he said.

Piersante is the interim director of the division and reports directly to university president Mary Sue Coleman. A search committee for the permanent director met for the first time on Friday, Piersante said. The committee is still working out what characteristics it wants in the new director, and the position has not been posted.

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.


Joe Kidd

Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 1:26 a.m.

A key piece of information that we still do not have is why/how the incident ended up at the hospital attorney's office and who took it there. Makes no sense for this to end up at the attorney's office, they do not handle this sort of thing (obviously).

Kai Petainen

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 6:54 p.m.

speaking of the hospital area... more bad news... really bad news. "A complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan Tuesday alleges that a portfolio manager at an unregistered investment advisor made a $276 million score by trading on insider information from a neurology professor conducting a clinical trial of an Alzheimer's drug. The complaint says Matthew Martoma, while working at CR Intrinsic Investors, received material nonpublic information from Dr. Sidney Gilman of the University of Michigan's Medical School"

Kai Petainen

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 5:25 p.m.

the formation of the DPSS is a fantastic step in the right direction. it's good that they're doing this. it's no secret that i haven't been a fan of security in the hospital area... even before this incident (but, we don't need to go there now).


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 4:26 p.m.

The cause was everyone being under a strict rule to use the chain of command. If the resident had been able to call the Ann Arbor police by dialing 911 it would have been resolved much sooner. As it was, she left the thumb drive where it was and instead told her supervisor who told their.....etc, etc. Passing the buck is getting old here.


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 6:12 p.m.

Agreed. That "strict rule of command" also included fiefdom protection and liability issues so vividly illustrated by the involvement of the hospital counsel in a strictly law enforcement matter. It also brings up the role and relations of residents compared to hospital security and why it's still called "security" instead of an accredited and sworn police force protecting one of the busiest 24/7 locations in Ann Arbor and all of Washtenaw County. UM administration knew this for years and ignored it. Pointed evidence of why the Chicago report is under "attorney-client privilege".