In the wake of the recent shooting on the Queens campus of St. John’s,the university president has brought in a long-time law enforcementheavyweight to review university security.
The Rev. Donald J. Harrington, CM, President of St. John’s University,has created a security task force to be headed up by Raymond Kelly,senior managing director and global head of corporate security at Bear,Stearns & Co., Inc., a worldwide investment banking and securitiestrading brokerage firm, and a graduate of St. John’s School of Law. Inaddition to reviewing university security, the task force will evaluatethe university’s response to the shooting which occurred early on March11, critically wounding a St. John’s football player and injuring ateenager.
“His mandate from me is to provide an objective, outside evaluation ofall that we do in terms of providing a safe environment for ourcommunity,” said Harrington in an address before student leaders at anemergency Organizational Congress held last Thursday. “We have to lookat everything when we have an incident like this and I want it done byexternal people so that we have … an objective evaluation, not justourselves saying what should be.”
Kelly said that the task force, which will include Bear Stearns securitypersonnel, will begin by examining the trigger and aftermath of theshooting. The task force has already begun meeting with New York CityPolice Department and university officials about the incident. Kelly’steam will interview campus management and security officials to evaluateprocedures, and look at the physical setup and layout of the universityto determine where safety could be compromised. “We will ultimatelybring in experts from outside physical security companies to aid in theevaluation process,” he said.
The security procedures and systems at other colleges also will beexamined. The task force will review an in-depth analysis conducted bythe business security firm Kroll Associates during the development ofthe university’s Master Plan in 1999. The team, which is still underdevelopment but is expected to include security experts, administrators,faculty, students and other university officials, also will meet withstudent leaders and faculty representatives for recommendations. Kellyexpects the task force to deliver its findings to Harrington and theboard of directors within six weeks.
“St. John’s is a great institution and a great New York institution, andI want to help in any way I can,” Kelly said.Harrington wants students to be directly involved in the task force’sreview. Student leaders are meeting with Kelly this week to give theirinput on campus safety.
“It was really clear [from the Organizational Congress] that a lot ofthe students wanted to get their voices across,” said senior MicheleCrokus, a government and politics major who will be involved in thestudent meetings. “I think that the task force is a fantastic idea toformulate the study.”
Michael Yetemian, a junior and computer science major, plans to addressconcerns such as building access and campus lighting. “I’d like to makesure that our voices are heard by Commissioner Kelly and to make surethat he understands what our concerns are in regards to schoolsecurity,” he said.
Junior Lee Anne Burke believes the task force would be important even ifthere had not been a shooting. “It’s not necessary because of theshooting, but everything in general. The shooting was an isolatedincident.”
Kelly said that although the shooting incident triggered his involvementin the task force, “this has been a long-standing nature of the processin changing now that there are residents on campus.”
Dean of Residence Life Henry Humphreys expects that changes will be madeto the security and procedures concerning the resident students. “Anyinstitution in the United States can always improve upon [studentsafety],” said Humphreys. He said he is excited that the task force hasbeen established and that it is being conducted by an outside group.
Harrington said that the incident is “both tragic and serious” and that”we want to ensure as best we can that this will never happen again.But in the world in which we live, it’s very hard to say never.”Harrington cited the university’s safety record, which he said is “avery excellent safety record up till now,” and said that he does notwant to presume that because of the record this shooting was a”haphazard kind of thing” that will never again occur.
Cory Mitchell, 22, of Yonkers, and 17 year-old Rashan Fray of Freeportwere shot on campus during an early morning altercation on March 11.The victims were followed onto the campus after an argument atTraditions, a local bar frequented by St. John’s University students.Five shell casings were found at the scene. Mitchell, a St. John’sstudent and football player, was hit in the back and critically wounded. He has since been transferred to Burke Rehabilitation Center inWestchester County. Fray was shot in the leg and released the dayafter the shooting. Police arrested Chris Prince and charged him withattempted murder, assault in the first degree and possession of aweapon. His bail was set at $100,000, and he was released on bond at$10,000. He is due back in court on Monday.
Bear Stearns has agreed to make Kelly available to the university for aslong as the review takes to complete. Kelly joined Bear Stearns March 1after having served as commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service forthree years. He has also served as under secretary for enforcement atthe U.S. Treasury Department, where he supervised agencies including theU.S. Customs Service, U.S. Secret Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobaccoand Firearms, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and the Office ofForeign Assets Control. He has also served as vice president for theAmericas of Interpol, an international police organization. Kelly wascommissioner of the New York City Police Department, where he directedthe emergency response and investigation of the World Trade Centerbombing.