By John Hollinger
For 26 years, Dominic J. Barone was a Public Safety officer at Canisius. He moved up the ranks all the way to the deputy position—second-in-command overall—where he served for 15 years. But after protecting the campus community for more than half of his adult life, Barone was cut in 2013 as a “workforce reduction” measure.
Nearly four years later, the deputy position still remains vacant. Current Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Terri Mangione revealed the motives of the College when the cut was made.
“It was eliminated in a reduction of force for budgetary reasons.”
Mangione said that she intimately remembers when Barone was let go because she was in that meeting where they had to relay the news to Barone, who did not agree with the decision.
“I am convinced that the administrators that decided to eliminate the position in 2013 made an egregious error in reaching that decision then, and continue to do so in not re-authorizing it now,” said Barone.
Barone wasn’t the only officer cut in the summer of 2013. A public safety lieutenant/investigator that was assigned full time to assist Barone was also cut on June 28, 2013. Mangione also said that reduction of students is worth putting into consideration.
“We’ve maintained the number of officers appropriate for the number of students we’ve had,” said Mangione.
But according to the Director of Institutional Research Lauren Young, there was an increase in undergraduate population from the spring to fall semesters of 2013. And in the summer between this increase of students, cuts were made to the deputy position and his full-time assistant. According to Young, the undergraduate student population rose from 2,897 to 3,084 from the spring to fall of 2013.
“That particular position did not impact the safety of students on campus—that wasn’t an individual who was out patrolling in cars,” said Mangione.
Although the deputy position and his full-time assistant weren’t out on campus patrolling in cars, they were working on behind-the-scenes, investigation work that can sometimes be overlooked, according to Barone.
“The elimination of my former partner and I created significant voids in service that are not apparent at first glance,” said Barone, “particularly in the areas of physical security, such as alarm systems and security cameras, investigations, government compliance, and overall professionalism, stability, and morale of the department of Public Safety.”
After nearly four years, Barone says he has seen a difference. He also said that with certain parameters, others could discover this vulnerability.
“I am sure that with proper guidance and appropriate investigation, you will easily learn that despite the best effort of the Public Safety staff… the campus is less secure than it was in 2013 when the assistant director’s position was in place,” said Barone.
“I have great concern these decisions have greatly impacted the safety of the campus community, and cite a few examples:
- Government Investigation of Crime (sexual offense) reporting practices.
- Lack of or slow timely warnings about serious incidents.
- Communication failures between the Director of Public Safety and cabinet level.”
Although Barone, who had been an officer at Canisius for 26 years, has seen a drop off, Mangione says that she has not.
“There hasn’t been a drop off in investigations; the investigations are still being done,” said Mangione.
The current Director of Public Safety, H.Wil Johnson, has requested for the deputy position to be added again—but says that it won’t happen due to the budget.
“More [officers] would always be helpful… but with the budget, that’s not going to happen. I asked for somebody to be added in. It would be nice to have a second-in-command, but I don’t have that,” said Johnson.
Barone went on to say: “Please don’t interpret my concern as coming from a bitter ex-employee, or as a chance to get my old job back. I assure that this is not the case. I have no desire to return to Canisius or law enforcement in general. I gave half of my adult life to Canisius and its students, had two children graduate from it, and enjoyed everyday I worked there except for the last. Although I am somewhat disappointed that I was not offered to return to my previous rank… I harbor no ill will toward Canisius.”
Although this position was taken out due to budget constraints in 2013, it is still unclear when or if it will ever be refilled. What is clear is that it won’t happen for the 2017-18 academic year, according to Mangione.
“We are not hiring a new deputy. It is not in the budget for 17-18. The budget is the reason why the position is not going to be hired in the next year,” said Mangione.
Although Canisius will not be hiring for the deputy position anytime soon, Mangione still admitted that safety is of utmost importance. “When you’re at an institution that has had very tight budgets, a shrinking student population, we’re not in a position to fund wish-lists,” she stated.
But despite this, Barone emphasized the importance of the behind-the-scenes work that the deputy is responsible for.
“Most people only see the high visibility patrol operations. When the behind the scenes is overlooked and the work is absorbed by the patrol function, both elements will suffer, mistakes will be made and things will be missed,” said Barone.
Barone concluded that he believes that the college has suffered financially as a result of administration’s decision.
“I suspect that this dynamic has had both a tangible and intangible negative financial impact on the college that exceeds the cost of of employing an assistant director of public safety.”