Get To Know Campus Safety Director Jim O’Neill

Beginning this fall, Jim O’Neill will officially take over the position of Director of Campus Safety and he is looking forward to all that lies ahead! Photo credit: Ali Haag ’19

Jim O’Neill has been named Director of Campus Safety, after an initial appointment as Interim Director of Campus Safety. Laurel Kennedy, vice president for Student Development says, “Jim’s long experience with crisis management, staff training, and professional development, and the many unique elements of operating an office devoted to safety and security, equip him well for this role, as does his learning mindset and his unflappable demeanor.”

O’Neill holds a degree in marketing but has spent the majority of his career in law enforcement. Before coming to Denison, O’Neill spent a little more than 25 years as a police officer in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, and was its Chief of Police from 2012 to 2017.

When asked what he’s excited about in his new position, O’Neill says that he is “really looking forward to continuing the transition of our office from Campus Security to Campus Safety. While the differences might seem small on the surface, I envision the Office of Campus Safety as being a real value-added component of Student Development.”

He says that the new position will give him the chance to “bring my experience and background into a much more interactive environment. The city of Reynoldsburg has a population of over 35,000 and covers more than 14 square miles. It was difficult to have personal contact with more than a very small percentage of the people you served. Here at Denison, with a student population of 2,200, I’ve found it much easier to engage people and build relationships with students, faculty and staff.”

O’Neill’s major priority as Director of Campus Safety is to ensure that Campus Safety uses all the resources available to it to “create an inclusive and secure environment where all members of the Denison community feel safe.” In 2018-2019, O’Neill hopes that Campus Safety will be able to develop a community advisory panel. In his words, “The purpose of this panel is to provide recommendations to the Office of Campus Safety regarding a variety of issues ranging from the party culture to parking. I used a similar panel while serving as Chief of Police and found it to be an extremely effective way of identifying priorities and concerns from a perspective outside of our department.”

One of O’Neill’s long-term visions for the department is to involve Campus Safety in partnerships with Residential Communities and Athletics, to conduct outreach and engagement programming to promote student involvement, and to serve as mentors to students across campus. O’Neill says that if these goals are accomplished, “we [Campus Safety] can minimize the need to focus on enforcement activities and instead concentrate on a cultural shift where prevention and education are the priorities.”

In his first several months at Denison, O’Neill has enjoyed most “the way the culture and the values are defined and put into practice by everybody from President Weinberg on down. This is a message that rings true to so many people and it is constantly reinforced in our day-to-day activities.”

In his free time, O’Neill enjoys outdoor activities of all kinds. “Most weekends I try to find time to go hiking, fishing, biking or kayaking, as long as the weather cooperates,” says O’Neill. He is also an avid runner with a handful of marathons under his belt, as well as dozens of half marathons and triathlons. He’s currently training for a triathlon and Pelotonia. A sports enthusiastic, O’Neill enjoys following The Ohio State Buckeyes and the Cleveland professional teams, especially when he is unable to get outside.

When asked what he wanted students to know about his department, O’Neill said, “Our principle priority is to help students deal with their problems. Whether they’ve locked themselves out of their room, have a dead car battery, or are dealing with an issue that’s more complex or pressing, our goal is to use our resources to help with the issue at hand, or put them in contact with someone who can help.”

July 13, 2018