Mason police chief finishes first year with plans for mobile safety app

As the spring semester draws to a close, Eric Heath is finishing out his first year as Mason’s Chief of Police. In June of 2013, Heath was chosen to replaced Interim Police Chief Drew Tracy, who was also a candidate for the position along with one other applicant. In that time, there have been some substantial changes to the university’s police system. Heath said one of their biggest accomplishments from the past few months has been improving communications with students, faculty, and administration.

“The biggest thing students may be interested in is… we’ve really had a good working relationship with Student Government,” Heath said. “We’ve been meeting on a monthly basis and we’ve invited student government to sit on our hiring panels for new police officers, so they help us choose. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from them about the possibility of bringing on a mobile safety app, one that’s geared towards students having the ability to push a button to call the police department, gain access to crime stats, as well as getting push notifications for timely warnings.”

The mobile safety app still needs development, but Heath says the process has already started.

“We’ve looked at a couple of different companies, we have another meeting at the end of this week to try to finalize that decision,” Heath said. “It’s been a really good partnership, getting to know Jordan (Foster, Student Body President), Sam (Wettasinghe, Student Body Vice President) and Liam (Hennelly, Chief of Staff) because we get to meet with them on a regular basis to talk through concerns and stuff like that.”

One of the more recent additions is the hire of Tom Longo, chief of police at the University of South Florida, as the new assistant Chief of Police. Additionally, there are seven new police officers who are currently in police academy training and Lucy, Mason’s first K-9 officers. These new assets will be put to the test when Mason hosts their [annual?] security exercise this summer.

“We’re going to be hosting a full scale exercise which will actually be not just the operations piece but the emergency operations group and the executive council,” Heath said. “It’s going to encompass your front line police officer all the way up to the president. At the end of May, we’ll have a scenario that our police department and many others will respond to. We’re excited about that because most universities will have something in the field or they’ll have the table-top, but they very rarely have the time and the availability to get everybody together and conduct a full scale exercise.”

Heath laid out a few goals for the upcoming year, mostly pursuing the mobile safety app and building a presence at orientation to communicate with new students.

“We’ve got a lot of things to do, it never really ends,” Heath said. “It’s been an interesting eleven months.”