App State Police car

In this photo, an Appalachian Police car is pictured outside the university’s Leon Levine Hall of Health Sciences.

BOONE — Appalachian State University is forming a police advisory council, which will advise the director of public safety/chief of police and the Appalachian State University Police Department.

The council was created by the App State Faculty Senate in the 2020-21 academic year after App State Police Chief Andy Stephenson brought the idea to former Faculty Senate chair Michael Behrent.

“It’s important for community members to be engaged with their police department,” Stephenson said. “I want our community members to know how our department operates and to know why and how police respond to concerns. Having an advisory group like this on campus, one that knows the inner workings of the police department, will help improve relationships and foster an environment in which everyone feels safe on campus.”

The board will make recommendations on such matters as hiring, policing policies, police officer training topics, complaint resolution, and participate in local and national critical incident debriefings.

“I want this group to assist APD with recognizing areas the police department can work on to improve community relations, help review challenges we have and help develop solutions,” Stephenson said. “This group will be a tremendous asset as we strive to continue to improve how we work, build relationships and support an inclusive campus environment.”

The council membership and terms of appointment will be finalized in the coming weeks. The group does not have a meeting schedule yet, but Stephenson said he expects it will meet several times each semester.

Stephenson said he worked with Behrent when he was Faculty Senate chair to get the council formed. Behrent said this is a strong example of the faculty and administration working together to create something productive.

Behrent said Stephenson reached out to him about a year ago with the idea of the council.

“He explained to me that he thinks that it is a good thing for police departments to have advisory boards so that there’s accountability and that they can have good relationships with stakeholders in the community,” Behrent said.

Behrent said his job was to help find interested faculty to help with the foundations of how the council would operate and have the council’s formation solidified in the App State Faculty Handbook, which the App State Board of Trustees approved at its June 18 meeting.

“Issues of policing (are) very important to the campus,” Behrent said. “I am convinced that (Stephenson) is very eager to have community input and community involvement.”

And that’s what Stephenson hopes is achieved with the council: community input and involvement.

“The creation of this advisory committee offers an opportunity for our campus community to provide advice to the department on a variety of matters,” Stephenson said. “The focus for this group will be on building community relationships, discussing community concerns and developing ideas for proactive solutions. This is another way for APD to work together with our community, communicate more effectively and continue to improve.”

More information on the Police and Campus Safety Advisory Council can be found on Page 126 of the App State Faculty Handbook found at tinyurl.com/y8f5v4vu.

“We want to continue developing and maintaining trusting relationships and create a sense of ownership and belonging so that all members of our campus community feel safe and included,” Stephenson said.

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