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Safety and well-being model update

Friday, Aug. 14, 2020

Dear VCU and VCU Health Communities:

Early this summer, VCU outlined a series of targeted reforms to support a new model for campus safety and well-being, including the implementation of an advisory function, workforce realignment of staff roles in mental health emergency situations that do not require sworn police officers, policies and training to enhance fair and impartial policing practices, and transparent metrics. Below are updates on our progress toward the transformation from policing our community to equitably and more holistically fostering the safety and well-being of every individual on our campuses.

  • Advisory committee leadership. As noted in Monday’s message from President Rao, VCU’s new Safety and Well-being Advisory Committee will be co-chaired by School of Education Dean Andrew Daire, Ph.D., and Sheryl Garland, chief of Health Impact for VCU Health System, both of whom have national expertise in social justice and health equity. Based on feedback from the VCU community, the chair and co-chair will determine committee membership in early September. As they work to include all voices, you are encouraged to continue providing feedback regarding the charge of the committee as well as nominations for membership. Look for updates and share your ideas at This committee will operate independently from VCU Police. Moving forward, you will hear directly from the advisory committee regarding VCU’s transformational model for safety and well-being, guidance for fair and impartial policing strategies and initiatives, and a plan for community involvement.
  • Workforce realignment. Building upon work started early in the year, VCU students who experience a mental health emergency can now contact University Counseling Services after hours and on weekends. Previously, students called VCU Police to speak with a crisis clinician, however students can now call University Counseling Services at (804) 828-6200, day or night, to speak with a trained professional who can offer risk assessment and crisis stabilization.
  • VCU Police updates. VCU Police will continue to operate under the Division of Administration. Associate Vice President for Public Safety John Venuti will again serve as Chief of Police, a role that was filled on an interim basis by Assistant Chief of Police Howard “Mike” O’Berry between fall 2019 and summer 2020. Please join us in thanking Assistant Chief O’Berry for his service. Assistant Chief O’Berry and Assistant Chief Nicole Dailey will share operational duties and work alongside Chief Venuti to implement the new safety and well-being model. VCU Police remains committed to collaboratively creating a new model that is reflective of the community’s call for a different approach to public safety. In addition to training for crisis intervention, de-escalation and fair and impartial policing practices, the department will publish a public-facing metrics dashboard by October. Key performance indicators published on the dashboard will be determined in partnership with the Safety and Well-being Advisory Committee, based on feedback from the community, and include complaints and department use-of-force and resolution.

These reforms remain a critical priority and we need your ongoing feedback as we build this model together. Please continue to share your ideas and advice online at or email With continued input and partnership from the VCU community, we can build upon the progress we have made and cultivate an environment in which we all can equitably thrive. 


Michael Rao, President, VCU and VCU Health System

Peter Buckley, Interim Senior Vice President for Health Sciences and Interim CEO, VCU Health System

Matthew Conrad, Executive Director of Government and Board Relations

Jay Davenport, Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations

Karol Kain Gray, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Karah Gunther, Executive Director for Government Relations and Health Policy

Gail Hackett, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Karen Helderman, Executive Director for Audit and Compliance Services

Charles Klink, Senior Vice Provost for Student Affairs

Tomikia LeGrande, Vice President for Strategy, Enrollment Management and Student Success

Pamela Lepley, Vice President for University Relations

Ed McLaughlin, Vice President and Director of Athletics

Aashir Nasim, Vice President for Institutional Equity, Effectiveness and Success

P. Srirama Rao, Vice President for Research and Innovation

Meredith Weiss, Vice President for Administration