A day after Georgia State University president Mark Becker demoted his campus police chief, the interim chief and his team were working on ways to better safeguard the campus and to more timely notify employees and students about incidents.
Former university police chief Connie Sampson was replaced Tuesday following a double shooting, involving one Georgia State student, in a campus parking lot in a suspected drug deal.
Sampson, had been at Georgia State for 20 years and had been an associate vice president for university police and building services, with a salary last year of about $173,886, according to state records.
On Wednesday, Sampson’s photo had been removed from the school’s police command staff website and replaced with an acting chief. Sampson’s duties were limited to building services.
Despite Sampson’s leadership role, Georgia State’s deputy chief Carlton Mullis had become the face of the university’s police force, which includes 70 officers for its downtown campus. When the university hosted a campus safety forum earlier this year following a series of armed robberies in the school’s library, Mullis was the public safety representative alongside Becker at the meeting. This week, Mullis was also providing media updates on the double shooting.
When asked about what led directly to Sampson’s demotion Wednesday, Becker said he could not discuss personnel matters.
On the search for a new chief, Becker said he is evaluating the market and seeking expertise in the law enforcement community as to the qualifications the school needs to look for in a chief.
“I have a lot of confidence in Deputy Chief Carlton Mullis. The focus is getting the best candidate, not the speed of the search,” he said in an email response to questions.
Although tight lipped on the chief change, Becker’s Tuesday evening message sent out to the campus community hinted at some of the forces at work.
“Many students and parents expressed concern that they first heard about the incident on the news rather than from their own university,” Becker said. “I am disappointed we did not promptly and effectively communicate what was happening last night as information became available.”
Monday’s shooting occurred at 9:32 p.m. Georgia State sent out a campus notification more than an hour later, at 10:49 p.m., according to campus officials.
Gabriela Batista-Vargas learned about the shooting first from an online post by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Hearing about it that way, from the news, instead of our own school, was worrisome,” she said. Batista-Vargas heads a campus safety committee of the student government association. Her group plans to present a series of safety recommendations at its next SGA meeting later this week.
Georgia State, like many colleges, employs a two-pronged alert system: one emergency alert text message, called Panther Alerts for situations including immediate dangers, such as shooters and severe weather emergencies; the other message is a timely notification email sent out to all staff and students with a university email. Those email notifications, which was sent out following Monday’s shooting, can take longer to send.
“We realize there is a gap in those two notifications,” said acting Chief Mullis. With the current alerts, the university wants you to do something or to be aware of something, he said. “But there is a middle ground in determining the best way to do that and meet the needs of what the community expects.”
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