For individuals at Virginia Tech, the sheer scale of the campus and its evolving community of students, employees, visitors, buildings, and roads may be hard to perceive.

For the groups tasked with keeping the university safe by approaching safety holistically — and viewing it through a common lens — is a necessity.

Recent organizational changes at Virginia Tech will foster that shared safety context and enhance overall security and preparedness at Virginia Tech.

While the Virginia Tech Police Department (VTPD), Virginia Tech Emergency Management, Virginia Tech Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), and the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad — the units responsible for advancing safety and preparedness — already work closely on a daily basis, they came together under one organization Oct. 1.

Leading the unit will be former VTPD Chief and Director of Security Kevin Foust, who will take on a new role as associate vice president for safety and security, reporting to Dwayne Pinkney, senior vice president and chief business officer.

William “Mac” Babb III will lead the VTPD as the new chief and director of security, reporting to Foust. His official pinning ceremony took place Oct. 2.

Foust’s new role is forged from his extensive experiences in law enforcement and intelligence. He served as chief of police and director of security at Virginia Tech since 2014, and before that, as deputy chief for three years. Prior to Virginia Tech, Foust had a 24-year career as a special agent with the FBI, serving in several capacities, including notably, as unit chief of the Osama Bin Laden Unit in the Counter-terrorism Division. 

Babb brings his own unique point of view, shaped by nearly 30 years in university and municipal law enforcement. He served as deputy chief of police and assistant director of security at VTPD since 2015. Previously, he spent 25 years with the Roanoke Police Department in roles that included managing the canine unit, serving as tactical response team commander, and supervising the Investigations Bureau.

The efforts of this new public safety organization will be driven by information sharing, community engagement, education, and putting best practices into action. These principles will also serve as a guiding link for the organization’s activities across a multitude of Virginia Tech campuses, research settings, and more.

“Virginia Tech’s public safety, emergency management, and environmental health and safety units are sought out nationally by peers for their leadership and expertise. Bringing these departments even closer together will not only boost resource-sharing and efficiency, but will help the university achieve greater institutional excellence as highlighted in the Beyond Boundaries Strategic Plan,” Pinkney said.

“With his deep experiences in a variety of leadership and on-the-ground municipal law enforcement roles, Chief Babb possesses a strong ability to see and engage with community members through a variety of lenses. These experiences will serve him very well as VTPD chief,” Foust said.

A search will be announced soon for the deputy police chief role.

Cultivating a shared safety vision and plan isn’t just the responsibility of Virginia Tech public safety leaders, nor is it confined to campus boundaries either. 
 
As university facilities and enrollment grow, especially on the Blacksburg campus, so do the intersections between university and town. There is a need for close collaboration between Virginia Tech and Blacksburg, especially in areas like public safety and infrastructure. 
 
Fortunately, a longstanding partnership has already been put into place between both police departments thanks to Foust, Blacksburg Police (BPD) Chief Anthony Wilson, and their predecessors.

Through constant communication, concurrent jurisdiction, and shared emergency response, training, and operating systems, VTPD and BPD have developed a common vantage point and scalable approach to bolstering safety and preparedness for the greater community. 
 
The chiefs came together weekly for discussion around the latest trends and topics in the community and brainstorming new methods for community engagement. 

For Babb, this dialogue and collaboration won’t be stopping anytime soon. 
 
“The strong partnership and shared vision for safety and preparedness put into action by VTPD and BPD are huge advantages coming into the chief role. I’m grateful for the hard work of my predecessors to establish deep relationships among Virginia Tech, town, and the greater regional law enforcement community,” Babb said.

The close partnership between both police departments indicates the thriving cooperation between Virginia Tech and Blacksburg as a whole.

A  2019 Princeton Review  ranking listed Virginia Tech as #2 in the Town-Gown Relations are Great category. This recognition is a testament to the planning facilitated by the  town-gown committee,  which is made up of Virginia Tech and Blacksburg leaders. 

While the group meets monthly to discuss community issues, the cornerstone of their efforts are six town-gown gatherings each academic year on a range of significant topics. The discussions are open to all community members. Members of the Virginia Tech Student Life Council also participate and are encouraged to share the student outlook on important issues.  

Feedback generated from the town-gown meetings and public safety discussions help underscore implementation of the  Campus Master Plan  and  Beyond Boundaries  strategic university vision. 

“We’re experiencing an exciting time of growth for the university and town, and I view the changes within the public safety unit at Virginia Tech as a positive next step in deepening collaboration and top-notch public service. We look forward to continuing to partner with VTPD to meet the needs of our growing and evolving community,” Wilson said.
 

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