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AU, COUNTY AND CITY SEEK TO CREATE UNIQUE CRIMINAL JUSTICE PARTNERSHIP

In what is being described as the first public-private venture of its type nationally, Anderson University is discussing a plan with Anderson County and the City of Anderson to establish a forward-thinking Criminal Justice Center of Excellence within the former Duke Energy administrative building at the corner of Murray Avenue and Bleckley Street in Anderson.

There, three entities – the University, the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, and the Anderson Police Department could come together to conduct separate official activities and collaborate to create synergy to strengthen the educational experience of both undergraduate and graduate students preparing for careers and enhancing credentials in the fields of criminal justice, emergency preparedness, and homeland security.

Anderson County Council, acting through then chairman Tommy Dunn, Francis Crowder, interim administrator Rusty Burns, sheriff John Skipper, and deputy chief of emergency services division of the Sheriff’s Office Taylor Jones, initiated discussions with the University several months ago regarding how the two organizations might work together on matters of mutual interest.  After learning one another’s specific needs and goals, the two organizations focused on the criminal justice center as a way to meet both organizations’ needs and simultaneously do something good for the citizens and businesses of Anderson County – enhancing public safety and criminal justice through purpose-driven collaboration.

Anderson University took ownership of the building last fall in a partial sale - partial gift arrangement with Duke Energy Carolinas for the expansion of its growing criminal justice programs.  Local, state, and company-wide Duke Energy officials worked with the University to set aside the former administrative building for the advancement of public safety and quality of life.

Later this spring, the University’s School of Criminal Justice, including its graduate-level Command College of South Carolina, will relocate to the Duke facility’s first floor.  According to the proposed plan, at the same time, the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office would establish its Emergency Operation Center on the second floor of the building including approximately 6,000 square feet.  The Anderson Police Department is exploring the potential to locate its Digital Forensics Laboratory within the remaining 1,000 square feet.

In making the announcement, AU president, Evans Whitaker, said, “Each entity is studying the opportunity to create an unprecedented public safety impact on our community, the potential operational advantages and/or disadvantages of such a venture, and possible paths forward to bring the organizations together under one roof for collaboration.  Driving us at all times has been the desire to make a positive difference in our community, to do it efficiently, and to align our separate resources strategically to make it happen.  I give special credit to County Council as a whole for its forward thinking.  Had they not approached the University with the desire to work together for the benefit of our County, this simply would not have happened.  We are deeply grateful to the County Council and the Sheriff’s Office for their willingness to join with us to do something good that has never been done.  We believe it will not only be successful, but that it holds the potential to be a national model for other communities.  Both the County and the University are very hopeful the City will join in this initiative.”

City Manager John Moore agreed that the City of Anderson always seeks opportunities to meet new community needs especially when leveraging our resources is productive and cost efficient.  “The City of Anderson supports this endeavor and will be working with the City Council to determine the City’s role in this future program,” Moore said.

Each entity will conduct its separate activities just as it has in the past.  For example, the University will conduct its criminal justice classes and house its criminal justice faculty within the building.  The County will equip and run its Emergency Operation Center from the Bleckley Street location.  If the City joins in, it would equip and run its Digital Forensics Laboratory from the site.  But by cooperating beyond these individual functions is where the added benefits come into play, the partners believe.

Students, who will be the area’s future criminal justice professionals and public servants, will have the opportunity to see the County’s and City’s operations in action, to become familiar with their equipment, processes, and protocols, and to assist existing professionals in conducting actual emergency and forensic activities.  The law enforcement organizations and the citizens they serve will have the benefit of highly competent and articulate new professionals entering the workforce with unprecedented practical experience in their fields, not to mention the additional manpower students will provide as they observe and assist in actual emergency and intelligence gathering activities.

In addition, the University is exploring future opportunities to partner with federal agencies and nuclear energy organizations to design and deliver educational degree programs to meet their needs. 

All students and AU personnel must undergo appropriate background checks and security clearances to be allowed access in either law enforcement organization’s space and to participate in their activities.  They will also be under official supervision and direction at all times when observing or working with law enforcement personnel.

George Ducworth, professor and chair of AU’s School of Criminal Justice, said, “We are very excited about the partnership the University and its partners wish to form. From our perspective, it will give our students an unprecedented opportunity to interact with the County’s Emergency Operation Center, the Upstate Fusion Center, which promotes intelligence and information sharing among many local, state, and federal entities, as well as other facets of the Sheriff’s Office and the Police Department. It‘s a win-win proposition for the citizens of Anderson County, the City and the entire region as well as the University. It is the first partnership of this nature of which we are aware.  It will result in exceptional criminal justice and public safety professionals for our region and will go a long way toward making the AU School of Criminal Justice the best place to prepare anyone for such a career.”

According to University spokesman, Barry Ray, “AU could certainly use the second floor of the Duke building for its own purposes, but the proposed partnership is a reflection of the University’s philosophy to place even greater emphasis on its intention to serve and strengthen our local community and partner with those organizations that wish to join us in that worthy goal.  Given the University’s remarkable growth, addition of facilities, and ever-increasing national recognition, there’s never been a time when AU was better positioned to help our local community, region, and state as a driver of quality of life and economic development.  We welcome that opportunity.” 

For both the Sheriff’s Office and the Police Department, the former Duke facility makes it possible to locate critical functions without the City and County having to construct new facilities.  But it also represents a new opportunity to take part in the education and molding of future law enforcement professionals to meet new and emerging needs in an era of increasing threats in the areas of safety and security.

“As a result of Duke Energy’s generosity and foresight, we are delighted to have such a facility that we can share with our local law enforcement organizations for the benefit of our students and the public.  It’s a great example of increasing mutually beneficial public-private partnerships that allow their partners to simultaneously meet their individual needs and meet the needs of their communities with greater efficiency and impact,” Whitaker added.

The Anderson County Council will consider the proposal next Tuesday evening at its regularly scheduled meeting.  Members of the Anderson City Council will consider the proposal in the very near future.  If approved, preparations for occupancy would begin immediately.

Anderson University offers multiple tracks for criminal justice education including a degree completion program designed for those who hold two-year criminal justice degrees from technical colleges, several four-year programs for entering freshmen, and a graduate program for existing top law enforcement and public safety professionals.  The graduate program offers the Master of Criminal Justice degree and is the signature program of the University’s Command College of South Carolina.

The University’s Board of Trust recently approved a new bachelor of criminal justice degree in Homeland Security/Emergency Preparedness that supports its local as well as national interests. The degree is designed to prepare graduates for positions with local, state and federal government agencies such as homeland security/emergency preparedness agencies, city and state police and sheriffs’ departments, probation and parole departments, FBI, State Law Enforcement Division, drug enforcement agencies, the Secret Service, correctional institutions, juvenile justice agencies and in private, industrial security.   

Anderson University is a selective private comprehensive university of 2,700 students located in Anderson, South Carolina.  It is ranked among the top tier of US News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges and is listed on the US News & World Report’s list of less than 50 “up and coming” universities in America recognized for innovation and extraordinary recent advancement.  It is also listed as a Best Southeastern University by the Princeton Review and among America’s 100 Best College Buy’s published annually by Institutional Research and Evaluation, Rome, Georgia.  Since 2002, Anderson’s enrollment has increased 70 percent and campus property has quadrupled from 68 to 272 acres.                                             

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