The new Division of Public Safety will prioritize empathy and transparency, and current Chief of Police David Honan will reliquish his badge to lead the division.

March 31, 2022

New Division to Unite Public Safety Efforts, Police Chief Honan Relinquishing Badge to Lead the Division

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On Thursday afternoon, the University announced the creation of a new Division of Public Safety, which will have public safety services and units in a singular organization to prioritize transparency and empathy.

According to the University press release, the new umbrella division will be composed of the Cornell University Police Department, Cornell’s 911 Dispatch Center, Access Control and the Clery Act Compliance Service. The division will eventually include other public safety functions – such as the Office of Emergency Management and the student-led Emergency Medical Service.

This division is an umbrella organization, which will alter the organizational structure of the CUPD as the police chief will report to the new associate vice president of public safety.

Current Chief of Police David Honan, who has served in this role for three years and joined the CUPD in 1995, will lead the division as the AVP – a civilian role, meaning he will retire from law enforcement. Anthony Bellamy, who has worked in the CUPD since 2004 and has served as deputy chief since 2019, will make Cornell history as the first Black police chief of the CUPD.

“I will be stepping out of my law enforcement role and will no longer be a sworn officer,” said Honan in the University press release. “But my job will focus on continuing the principles I have held my entire career to make sure that we have a safe campus for people and that we devote the right resources to that safety and feeling of well-being.”

The move was part of the Public Service Advisory Committee’s recommendations from July 2021, which urged the University to implement an alternative public safety and response model.

The new division plans to work with the PSAC, the University’s leadership and the campus community to evaluate the remaining recommendations from the PSAC report and develop the next steps in the ongoing public safety efforts. 

Honan said that the CUPD has always worked to connect students and campus members with appropriate resources, including the Care and Crisis Services, Cornell Environment Health and Safety or the newly formed Community Response Team. However, Honan says the pandemic has stifled the engagement officers had with the community over the last two years.

“This public safety structure will afford officers more time to build essential relationships with our community, and focus on criminal law enforcement,” Honan said. “And the alternative response model can focus on the things that just don’t require a police officer.”

In April 2021, a PSAC survey found that underrepresented groups on campus feel a disproportionate sense of dissatisfaction with the CUPD. Conor Hodges ’21, who served as a student representative on the PSAC, said that this division is a step to building a better system.

“Because Cornellians of color report feeling less safe when they call 911 and receive an armed response, we need to build a crisis response structure that tailors the responding resource to match the need,” Hodges said. “This new division is a first step in the PSAC’s process of building a more robust emergency system that doesn’t simply expect armed police officers to do everything, all the time.”

Correction, March 31, 5:33 p.m.: A previous version of this article failed to clarify the distinction between the umbrella Division of Public Safety and the CUPD. The article has since been updated and corrected.