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Calvin Connects with Campus Safety Depts
posted April 3, 2007

A new group plans to increase communication among area college and university campus safety and police departments.

Calvin director of campus safety Bill Corner convened the gathering for the first time in mid-March and says he hopes the meeting was the start of something permanent. It makes sense, he says, for local colleges and universities to do what local police departments already are doing.

"There's a group of leaders from every police department in Kent County that meets once a month," he says, "and I attend most of those meetings. They're great opportunities to network, to gather information and to share information. After a while I thought 'Why aren't we doing this on a local college level?'"

So on March 15 campus safety and police department personnel from eight area institutions -- Calvin, Aquinas, Grand Rapids Community, Hope and Kuyper colleges as well as Cornerstone, Davenport and Grand Valley State universities -- came together to form the Grand Rapids Area Higher Education Campus Safety Department Association.

They met from 11 am to 2 pm that day to discuss a variety of issues, everything from larcenies in college fieldhouses to crime patterns on campuses to how campus safety and on-campus police departments can play an educational role in their communities.

Corner says the meeting went better than expected.

"People were excited about the possibilities," he says, "and we had some good discussions that day."

Corner says coordination among area college and university campus safety and police departments can be as important as coordination among local law enforcement branches.

He points to a recent spate of parking lot larcenies on Calvin's campus that led him to call GVSU where the same thing was happening and similar descriptions of the suspects were being given.

"We ended up getting a license plate here at Calvin," says Corner, "which we then passed on to GVSU and the Grand Rapids Police Department, and which eventually led to three people being arrested."

Corner hopes going forward to create a monthly email newsletter for the Grand Rapids Area Higher Education Campus Safety Department Association and also to see the group meet quarterly for networking, information sharing and perhaps some seminars and speakers.

Calvin's campus safety department, which includes eight full-time employees and 45-50 students (who work as officers, dispatch personnel and escort drivers), has been under Corner's leadership since the summer of 2005 when the 1989 Calvin graduate returned to his alma mater to succeed Jerry Steele.

It was a stint as a student worker in the campus safety department at Calvin that launched Corner on his eventual career path, one that includes 14 years with the Grand Rapids Police Department.

He entered Calvin in the fall of 1985, after graduating from Greenville High School, with designs on a career as a teacher and a coach. And he eventually graduated with a major in history and a minor in physical education.

But conversations with fellow student campus safety officers got him intrigued by the law enforcement field. And an aptitude test fortified his foray into police work.

So, after graduating from Calvin having never taken a criminal justice course, Corner set off for a year at Grand Valley State University, where he immersed himself in the field. He then attended and graduated police academy and in 1991 was hired by the Grand Rapids Police Department.

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