With the ongoing onslaught of bomb threats against the University of Pittsburgh and a recent shooting at Western Psych, a lot of attention is being paid to security on area college campuses.
Last month signs started popping up on the South Side stating that Duquesne University was considering "eliminating their police department." While that's not entirely the case, the university is examining cost-cutting measures that may include outsourcing security services.
"We value our police officers, but as part of a university-wide effort, we are doing a preliminary study to determine if outsourcing could give us the same high standards of safety and service while providing cost efficiencies," said Duquesne Spokeswoman Bridget Fare, in a written statement sent to Essential Pittsburgh. "Looking at outsourcing comprehensively is one way we're trying to be fiscally responsible university-wide, and we are examining the same thing related to parking and facilities (housekeeping, trades, landscaping etc.)"
The thought of outsourcing police services concerns Teamsters 249, the union representing Duquesne police. President Joe Rossi said, "You get what you pay for. You want a professional police force? That's what Duquesne has now. A couple of years ago we had the shootings at Duquesne University."
Rossi said a highly-trained police force was instrumental in handling that situation. He said the Duquesne Police Department is one of only two campus police units in the state whose officers are Act 120 certified. That's the certification that has to be obtained in order to be employed as a police officer in the state.
In Fare's statement about the issue, she said, "safety is a priority every day and we will not compromise the safety of campus — period. The primary determinant for outsourcing will be safety … cost is secondary in the decision making."
But Rossi fears that no matter what, if you go with outside security, the quality of protection will suffer.
"In light of the location of the campus, being in one of the higher-crime areas of the city of Pittsburgh, I don't think it would be in the best interest of the students or the faculty to outsource it to private security," he said.
Duquesne police officers have been working without a contract since July 31 and have been in ongoing negotiations on a new contract. Fare said the university has met 16 times with the Teamsters Union. Rossi said the most recent meeting was Friday, and more will follow. He added that he believes a contract will be agreed upon within the next few meetings.
Fare stressed that no decisions have been made in regard to outsourcing security, and there are no deadlines for such a decision.