By Zachary Lichter

Since the spring semester ended in May 2023, there have been several emails from the Catholic University of America’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) about robberies and shootings off campus. These emails raise one question: What is DPS planning to do to keep the CUA community safe?

DPS’s Associate Vice President for Public Safety and Emergency Management, Major Kirk McLean, reassures how he continues to protect the CUA community:

“Reports of crime near our campus this summer have certainly gained the attention of the community,” McLean said. “There were also several incidents that occurred in a shorter period of time. The Department of Public Safety remains committed to keeping our campus members informed and safe. Our strong partnership with the Metropolitan Police Department and other agencies was apparent throughout the summer as we collaboratively worked with the community to ensure that safety remained a top focus.”

One of the biggest incidents that DPS and the Metropolitan Police Department had to handle this summer was the fatal shooting of Maxwell Emerson. Emerson, who was not affiliated with CUA, attended a professional development conference on July 5 at Trinity University, and somebody shot him near Father O’Connell Hall. That day, faculty, staff, and students received emails from University Communications and ongoing updates from CUA’s President Peter Kilpatrick in the days following the incident.

Junior classical studies major and politics and theology minor Matthew Allen commented on where he was during the shooting:

“I was near the crime scene some twenty minutes before the shooting occurred,” Allen said. “I remember heading to the metro that morning and being a little early for a downtown appointment. When I saw the news, I compared my timeline with the event to discover that the murder had happened when I reached Union Station. My reaction was of shock and humility. Nobody thinks their regular haunt will become a death ground. It was also humbling since it prompted thoughts about death – one day, you will have breakfast for the last time, as Mr. Emerson did, and you do not know the hour either.”

Since the shooting of Emerson, President Kilpatrick has formulated new safety measures. 

For starters, the DPS officers are increasing the amount of patrolling by adding more patrol cars and officers on foot across campus. There will also be more DPS officers armed and carrying firearms. Additionally, more officers will be stationed at the Brookland Metro station and by the DuFour Athletic Center, and the Metropolitan Police Department will continue to partner with DPS as they said via email.

There will be new safety training materials sent to students in the “Keep Catholic Safe” Newsletter, which Major McLean emailed and introduced on September 8. Additional keycard access points will now be installed outside the academic and administrative buildings. Furthermore, DPS plans to install devices to block classroom doors from opening in case of an emergency or an active threat. CUA also completed a building address project, which allows first responders to quickly find the fire, police, or health emergency when 911 is directly called. 

In an interview with The Tower in May, President Kilpatrick commented:

“I would want to make sure that our community was well prepared, and in that regard, we feel that we put too much pressure on the leader of our public safety, Major Kurt McLean because he is also the emergency response manager,” Kilpatrick said. “So I’ve decided to hire an emergency response manager so that we can address all the areas that need improvement.”

In addition to President Kilpatrick’s safety measures on campus, he hosted a town hall meeting for faculty, staff, and students on July 19. Members of the CUA community who were not on campus had the chance to watch the live stream via YouTube. There was also a safety walk on July 25, where President Kilpatrick, members of DPS, and the Metropolitan Police Department conducted a safety walk to make sure the campus was safe and also to figure out if any safety measures needed to change.

Major McLean had this to say about the town hall and safety walk:

“I believe that town hall session served its purpose, which was to accurately inform, gain community feedback, and demonstrate that we are all about the business of addressing campus safety,” McLean said. “The measures are helping because our community members are providing positive feedback. We are constantly training and reevaluating our strategies to ensure that the absolute best safety measures are delivered here at Catholic.

To stay updated on campus safety, students should read the “Keep Catholic Safe” Newsletter (which was announced via email), every month and visit the university’s website for more information. Students should also download the Rave Guardian App to receive alerts of any possible threats on campus.

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