Mason Police survey gives students a voice

The Mason Community Police survey was sent out to students in order to receive feedback on the performance of Mason's police department (photo courtesy of George Mason University Police Department).
The Mason Community Police survey was sent out to students in order to receive feedback on the performance of Mason's police department (photo courtesy of George Mason University Police Department).

Over the past month, many George Mason University students have seized the opportunity to express their opinions about the Mason police department through the Mason Community Police Survey. While the results are not expected back for another week, the survey already has students talking.

 According to an email by President Ángel Cabrera, the survey was developed by the Police-Community Advisory Council to collect important information to improve the performance of the police force.

Some of the questions in the survey are very general. For example, one question asks how safe students feel on campus. Others ask about students’ opinions on the efficiency of the Mason police, specifically about whether they treat students respectfully.

James Willis, a Professor of Criminology at Mason, was one of the survey’s creators.

“The idea was to get some measure of how people feel towards the police and how safe they feel on campus,” Willis said. “A lot of the questions focus on legitimacy, which is a big area in police work right now.”

There were concerns that requiring students to give their Mason ID would compromise the anonymity of the survey. However, Willis says the idea behind imputing the ID was to discourage people from taking the survey twice. In addition, the ID input is not required. Overall, Willis said reception to the survey seems positive:

“One thing I’ve heard is that people have been happy about the inclusivity of the survey, that it included information regarding race and gender. I’ve also heard that people are glad to be able to have a voice.”

The survey was partially designed to collect reports on student experiences with the Mason police. For some students, their experience with George Mason’s Police Department has been an improvement over previous years. For others, the negative experiences have given them a lasting bad impression.

Mike Derobs, a junior, said that Mason Police seems to have experienced a positive change in mindset this year.

“I’ve dealt with the police department on a couple traffic things. I’ve actually found them to be very cordial. I also had other personal issues, and I dealt with Officer Guston, the LGBTQ liaison, and it felt comfortable dealing with an openly gay cop that I could talk to. I’ve always had a positive experience with them. After the whole “Robbie” thing they really had a big makeover,” said Derobs.

The incident Derobs referred to took place in 2011 when Mason police arrested student Abdirashid Dahir for alleged abduction.

Other students are not as pleased with the police department’s performance. Michael McKenny, a senior, says his primary experience with Mason Police was when he was stopped after going to the gym. The police gave no reason for the search and the needless delay caused him to miss the last shuttle out of campus.

The results of the survey are expected to be finalized by April 1st. Deputy Chief of Police George Ginovsky said that the Mason Police Department has limited involvement with the survey.

“This survey is a creature of the Police Advisory Council,” Ginovsky said. “[it is] run by the usual suspects: Housing, Student Representatives, and such.”

However, Ginovsky says that the results of the survey could affect Mason Police’s policy.

“We’re very interested in seeing the results. If there’s something brought to our attention, we’ll make sure to look into it,” said Ginovsky.

 Whatever the results, Derobs emphasized that most experience with Mason PD, whether positive or not, comes down to each student’s experience with individual police officers.

“Not every cop is the same,” Derobs said.


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