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Directing Public Safety on Two Campuses

It is a fairly typical Wednesday afternoon for Paul Ominsky. Outside his small office in the public safety department of Smith College, phones are ringing, students are at the customer service window asking about parking regulations and officers are reporting in during a shift change. What’s not so typical is that Ominsky started this day about eight hours ago, some 10 miles east in an office on the campus of Mount Holyoke College, where he has been director of public safety since 1992.

Since December 2003 Ominsky has been dividing his time between the two campuses and serving as director of public safety for both colleges, in an arrangement he calls a “promising new model of collaboration.”

Ominsky began his public safety career as a security officer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1974 and moved up through the ranks there before leaving the university in 1988 as an acting lieutenant. He went on to become director of public safety at Westfield State College for four years before taking the director’s position at Mount Holyoke. He holds a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in counseling from the University of Massachusetts.

He has brought to Smith a desire to encourage positive relationships between students and public safety officers. In addition to providing law enforcement and making the campus safe, “we want to be a better resource to the Smith community,” Ominsky says. To that end, the department is now offering some new services including car lock-out assistance and battery jump-starts for disabled cars. He reinstated a bike patrol this past summer and is supporting a revitalized student Emergency Medical Training program. “We’re always on the lookout for opportunities where the department can join up in a partnership with student groups. It’s a positive for the department.”

Seeking state certification, and eventually achieving accreditation, from the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission is a top priority. Mount Holyoke recently received accreditation status from the commission under Ominsky’s leadership. Now he would like to see Smith’s department achieve the same. Certification and accreditation are self-initiated processes, requiring that a department meet more than 200 mandatory standards covering such areas as policy development, emergency response planning and communications.

The shared position of public safety director is the second administrative collaboration between Smith and Mount Holyoke. Adrianne Andrews, Smith College’s ombudsperson, was recently named Mount Holyoke’s new ombudsperson and began sharing her time equally between the two campuses. -- JME

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