By Kristin Palpini
AMHERST--Paul L. Ominsky has a big job to do.
The director of public safety for Smith, Mount Holyoke and now Hampshire college is responsible for ensuring the well-being and protection of more than 6,500 students, employees and property.
But it's a job Ominsky said he's up to.
"Yes, it is a lot of work, but the work is rewarding since I have an opportunity to work with students, faculty and staff on each campus," Ominsky said. "The reason I can run three departments is that there is a very talented staff working with me."
Ominsky has been director of Smith and Mount Holyoke college departments of public safety for years, but took on Hampshire College this summer after the liberal arts college's public safety director Delroy Patrick left.
It is unclear under what circumstances Patrick and Hampshire College parted ways. A spokesperson for Hampshire College declined to provide information on the decision, and Patrick has an unlisted telephone number.
Ominsky is expected to usher in an era of public safety resource sharing between Mount Holyoke and Hampshire colleges. Officers can be shared between the two campuses and redistributed to handle large campus events. The two colleges also now share a lieutenant, a detective and a planning and community outreach coordinator on a daily basis.
Mount Holyoke College and Smith College both have nine public safety officers; Hampshire College has seven.
Each campus has an assistant or associate director of public safety that handles the day-to-day operations of the separate departments.
All three campuses can also share training duties. Already officers and dispatchers at Smith, Mount Holyoke and Hampshire colleges have participated in such sessions, Ominsky said.
"Leading the public safety staff on three campuses is another example of how (the) five colleges work together," Ominsky said. "In my case, sharing public safety information between the colleges reinforces the fact that the campuses are part of a larger community, not isolated enclaves."
Ominsky said he has numerous plans to improve Hampshire College's public safety department, including accreditation. Under Ominsky's guidance, Mount Holyoke's Public Safety Department was accredited in the spring. Accreditation means a college is adhering to a litany of best practice protocols set by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. Ominsky is the liaison to the association's governing board.
Ominsky is also planning to make Hampshire College's public safety department more accessible to students.
As an example of these efforts, Ominsky said the department held a public safety open house in September. The event attracted more than 125 students, who discussed safety and protocol on campus.
"I think that this is an example of the community-based approach we are bringing to the Hampshire community," Ominsky said.
Critics of Hampshire's last public safety director, Patrick, charge that he did not apply a community-based approach to police work. Alex Torpey, president of the Community Council, said under Patrick's administration, Hampshire's Public Safety Department failed to provide the campus community with timely information.
"The Community Council and student services want to work with public safety way more than they have been," Torpey said.
The Community Council also accused Patrick of abusing his access to campus resources. In a Community Council resolution passed in February, the student, staff and faculty organization alleges Patrick routinely used a campus vehicle to make the 120-mile commute to his home in West Hartford, Conn.
"We're looking forward to working with the new director," Torpey said.