Interim chief presents new U-M public safety division to university committee
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.
Kyle Feldscher | AnnArbor.com
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 AnnArbor.com 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.