26°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

The New Face of Campus Security

Our new police Chief JamesT. Overton plans to bring big changes to UMB campus security
Phot by Shira Kaminsky
Our new police Chief JamesT. Overton plans to bring big changes to UMB campus security

Around 1 AM on September 21, 2007, two students were shot on the campus of DSU (Delaware State University). One died days later while the other, shot in the ankle, was stabilized. The gunman was identified and apprehended three days later, on the 24th.

What does this have to do with UMB? James T. Overton, then chief of the DSU police, is UMB’s new Director of Campus Security. Chief Stanley M. Stewart, interim chief (after Chief O’Donnell’s retirement last May) has stepped down after 35 years. Stewart held the post briefly into the spring semester and finally retired after Overton agreed to take the post as chief indefinitely. 

Overton, once offered the position, came up to meet with Chancellor Motley. Until this meeting, Overton was still uncertain that he would accept a job 350 miles north east from his home in Smyrna, Delaware.

It was after that meeting that he made up his mind. Overton said that Chancellor Motley, “sealed the deal.” But there was one remaining obstacle to his officially becoming chief. “They still had to convince my wife.” Fortunately, once his wife met the faculty here at UMB, whom Overton repeatedly praised, she too was convinced. Chief Overton, his wife Carla, along with two of their youngest children, will be completely moved into their new home in Massachusetts in July.

In a meeting with the Mass Media, Overton described his plans for UMB, stressing at several points that he is “student friendly.” His plans certainly support his desire to integrate the student body into the activities of campus security.

Perhaps Overton’s most radical plan is to open up campus security, offering students jobs (both paid and unpaid) within the force.

Not only will this be an invaluable experience for students interested in careers within the criminal justice system, student participation will also benefit campus security. It is important to Overton to have “students that can advocate for you.” Students need to “know why we do what we do.” Jobholders would be trained by campus security faculty members and, while they would serve as “eyes and ears” and assist, they would not be granted the authority of enforcers.

Chief Overton also hopes to get the UMB Campus Security reaccredited. A lapse some years back forced UMB police to lose their accreditation. Although they still get their job done and keep the campus secure, accreditation will grant them reliability and a standard by which to measure their performance.

He hopes “to have more training for the officers” to make them even better at their jobs and even more accommodating to students.

Overton also has an interest in “safety and law enforcement technology” such as “the one card system.” The one card system is (as its name suggests) a system in which our student ID does everything; allowing us to rent library books to admitting us to faculty-only areas on campus and even burying blesséd snacks from vending machines. In addition to reducing the number of cards stuffed in our purses and wallets, a one card system enables campus security to easily generate a paper trail of who goes in an out of what rooms if such a trail is needed (as in the instance of theft.) Although a keycard system does exist in the Campus Center, it requires yet another piece of plastic to replace the jangling keys requisite in other campus buildings.

Overton also mentioned putting more surveillance cameras in public places. As the most common criminal action on campus is larceny of unattended property (there were nine larcenies reported last week alone), this would help prevent theft and recover lost items.

With almost 30 years of experience in law enforcement and a refreshingly student-friendly agenda, Chief Overton promises to bring many positive changes to campus security here at UMB. His ambitious agenda to regain accreditation and apply new technologies will, undoubtedly, increase security’s ability to respond to and deal with any number of situations that arise on campus.