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External Review and Recommendations

Northwestern strives to provide a safe and welcoming campus environment for all those in our community. Our commitment to social justice, as well as hearing the voices of our students and the broader university, have led us to reexamine the role of our campus security.

We engaged two expert consultants in late 2020 to help us better understand how to improve campus safety so that we reflect our university values in all we do. One consultant focused on community engagement while the other examined Safety & Security operations.

We asked them to talk to our campus community, examine data and provide recommendations in a public report. Their analysis would then inform a longer-term roadmap towards a more inclusive and just vision of community safety.

The recommendations within this report are now being reviewed by the Community Safety Advisory Board and by University leadership. Updates on our action steps and progress in improving campus safety will be shared regularly. 

Safety & Security External Review Report

Read the full joint report from the independent analysis on Safety & Security’s community engagement and operations.

Download it

About the Consultants

Northwestern engaged consultants with expertise in community engagement and in campus safety operations to prepare a comprehensive review of campus safety. Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila (RSHC) conducted a community engagement while Security Risk Management Consultants LLC (SRMC) reviewed Department of Safety and Security operations on both the Evanston and Chicago campuses.

Data Sources

The two separate analyses, presented by the reviewers jointly in the report, were based on multiple data sources:

  • Over 80 community conversations and focus groups with students, faculty, staff, university leadership, alumni, and local law enforcement officers (full details in the report’s Appendix A). Particular effort was made to speak to Black student groups.
  • Literature on police abolition, best practices for public safety, and the findings of peer universities examining similar concerns
  • Historical documents describing Black students’ experiences with campus security
  • Internal reports and data on student well-being and social justice initiatives
  • University and Safety & Security policies and procedures, including those related to student protests and to mental health or wellness checks
  • Documents on Safety & Security’s mission, policies, operating procedures, budget, event security plans, and reports filed after incidents
  • Transparency reports, crime notices, call center reports, and communications content
  • An on-site visit to observe operations, facilities, personnel, equipment, and joining a patrol

The recommendations are summarized below. For more information on the underlying data informing the recommendations, please review the full report.


Joint Recommendations

Based on the information gathered during their assessments, Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila (RSHC) and Security Risk Management Consultants (SRMC) offered four joint recommendations:

  • Reallocate mental health responses and resources from Safety & Security to mental health experts
  • Pivot to a community engagement approach to campus safety
  • Update and revise Safety & Security mission statement
  • Improve unconscious bias training

Additional Recommendations on Community Engagement (RSHC)

Based on the findings of the community engagement assessment, RSHC offered these additional recommendations:

  • Increasing accountability to advance change and transparency
  • Formation of a faculty research committee on public safety
  • Develop a policy on the use of racial identifiers in Crime Notices

Additional Recommendations on Security Operations (SRMC)

Based on the findings of the operations review of the Department of Safety & Security, SRMC offered these additional recommendations:

  • Update the Safety & Security code of conduct and code of ethics
  • Revise the process for handling complaints
  • Prioritize gaining accreditation
  • Assess activities to reassign away from Safety & Security