Goshen detective to lead in-house security team

Goshen College will resume direct management of its security force this fall under the direction of a long-time Goshen Police Department detective.

In August, Goshen College hired Al Mackowiak, a veteran of Goshen’s police force, to head up the security restructuring as director of campus safety and security. Mackowiak, a South Bend native, sees this position as a natural extension of his commitment to safety in the city of Goshen.

“I’ve always enjoyed Goshen’s campus,” he said. “I often jog through here or attend ball games. So when the opportunity arose, I took advantage of it.”

During Mackowiak’s 35 years on the Goshen Police Department, he served as the captain of the detective bureau, specializing in child molestation cases and domestic violence. Mackowiak also spent 10 years as a board member for YWCA’s Women’s Resource Center in South Bend.

Bill Born, the vice president of Student Life, shared his excitement about working with Mackowiak. “Al is a great addition to Goshen,” Born said. “He’s a personable guy. He understands the GC culture—you know, he gets the liberal arts, Mennonite thing. He’ll be a great bridge between the college and our community.”

One of Mackowiak’s first tasks at Goshen is to hire a staff of four to five security guards. The current security staff will need to reapply, as all new guards will now be considered Goshen College employees. On Oct. 1, Goshen College will make the switch from outsourced third-party security system to an in-house system, in addition to transferring security oversight from the Physical Plant to Student Life.

This decision was based primarily on pragmatic and financial reasons, as the college will be able to regulate the amount of patrol coverage hours. According to Born, the switch also relieves some disciplinarian pressure from the resident directors.  Born described the new vision for security at Goshen: “This marks a shift in security to a greater focus on people, where in the past the focus has primarily been buildings.”

Mackowiak supports Born’s hope for a new security focus. He said that, ultimately, this job is all about the students. “I hope students know that my door is always open, whether they just have car trouble or if they have a more serious problem to address.”

Among other changes, Student Life will purchase new bikes for patrolling campus and phase out the golf carts. “Bikes are a better fit to the campus culture,” Born said. “They provide more mobility and act as a stronger security presence.” The college will keep one golf cart for the longer patrol trips to the College Cabin.

While visible changes to security at Goshen College are just now being noticed, this process has been a few years in the making.  Two years ago, in response to a steady decline in surveyed security satisfaction, the President’s Council formed a task force.  The committee members included faculty and staff, though Student Senate took most of the initiative in discussing a strategic plan and eventually drafting a security reform proposal to be launched by the summer of 2011.

The proposal settled on five areas for review: campus education on safety and security, entry control to buildings and dorms, shifting security from the Physical Plant to Student Life, establishing an in-house security plan and exploring possibilities for installing surveillance cameras.

Born worked closely with Student Senate as they brainstormed ways to put these goals into practice. “We rallied a lot of support around the first four of these ideas, though surveillance might take a few more years,” Born said. “People get a little prickly whenever surveillance is involved, understandably so.”

Security at Goshen College received extra scrutiny last January after a student claimed that she was assaulted in a campus parking lot. Though the accusation later proved to be false, the college felt pressure from students, parents and community members for tighter security on campus.

According to Born, the college is taking the necessary steps to address new security expectations. “I’ve been appreciative of the positive response we’ve received about the new security system changes,” Born said. “I credit the students, first of all, but I also commend the college’s ability to communicate. Ultimately, our goal is education and safety.”

–By Mary Roth

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Written by Liz Core

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