Public Safety solicits feedback from students with new “Guardian Score” app

Dora Kreitzer, Assistant News Editor

Chief Anthony Morgan announced that beginning April 2, Public Safety will be partnering with the application Guardian Score to gather survey data for 90 days about officers’ interactions with campus community members. In his message, Morgan referred to this survey system as part of Public Safety’s “continuous cycle of self-improvement”.

When the Bucknellian spoke to Chief Morgan in February only 22 days after he joined the staff, Morgan informed campus of his plans to use Guardian Score, explaining part of his reasoning for using Guardian Score as because “it’s built on the pillars of procedural justice: How were you treated? How was the officer’s reaction? And we’re going to capture that data. So we can kind of see for ourselves. ‘What are we doing well, what aren’t we doing well?’ kind of from a data perspective.”

Morgan more recently added that he believes that by “adhering to the tenets of procedural justice,” Public Safety will be able to “improve relationships with the community [they] serve.” 

Guardian Score is a pilot program designed to help police administrations gather real-time data about individual interactions with officers. On their website, their mission is stated as five-fold: “change the way agencies measure a ‘good officer,’ provide a voice to all citizens who experience police encounters, help law enforcement agencies protect their brand, measure procedural justice skills of individual police officers, and build legitimacy for law enforcement within their community.” 

Every officer will carry interaction cards with each one containing a unique QR code as well as the officer’s name, badge number, role and department. Any individual that interacts with an officer will receive an interaction card to scan to access the evaluation survey. Once the card is redeemed, that link and QR code cannot be used again. Individuals will be asked to rate their police interaction based on the officer’s “ability to explain ‘why’, listening skills, fairness, professionalism and their ability to explain next steps,” according to the Guardian Score website. The survey claims to be 100 percent anonymous. 

Jillie Santos ’22, one of the speakers at the student walkout in protest of Public Safety’s handling of a student conduct case alleged by former officer Colby Snook in a lawsuit against the University under former Chief Steve Barilar, has concerns about this format. 

“If students can only access the Guardian Score rating platform after receiving a card from an officer directly following an interaction, anonymity is undermined and students may not feel comfortable providing an authentic report. Access to this platform should be available to all students at any given time,” Santos said. 

“My biggest issue with the program is its focus on the individual, which shifts the focus away from the bigger systemic issues that are the real problems at hand. I do not have personal grudges against individual officers nor do I believe that all the problems discussed in the walkout and list of demands are due to the specific people. Rather, the changes students are demanding, such as greater transparency from the department and administration, come from the institutional level and are often things the officers have no control over,” said Iona Pitkin ’25, another student involved in the student protest, said.

The interaction scores are made available to the department for review in real time, though the department has no control over the backend. Data can be evaluated on the officer, group and department level and can identify trends in scores by campus members’ age, race, ethnicity and gender as well as interaction type. It can also make recommendations for necessary trainings and identify high and low performers within the department. According to Guardian Score, the resulting data is not available for the public and is viewable only for the department. 

While Chief Morgan introduced this decision as a step in the direction of improvement of Public Safety, students are hoping to see bigger changes coming in-hand with or as a result of this evaluation. 

“Naturally, I am wary of the Guardian Score program and I will remain that way until I see the department implementing changes that address the concerns voiced through the program. The program might be valuable in providing insight to the Public Safety department around student opinion, but I have trouble imagining what changes they can begin to implement with that. Instead, I think the department should spend more time and resources understanding what students want and how they feel about the department as a whole,” Pitkin said. 

“While I applaud Chief Morgan’s demonstrated commitment to instituting more mechanisms of accountability in the Department of Public Safety, this is a small first step toward improving trust on campus which I hope provides momentum for more substantial changes,” Santos said.

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