Chief Edwin Lashley working to keep the SU campus safe

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If Chief Edwin Lashley had the attention of Salisbury University students for a moment, he’d offer this advice: Be alert.

“They should know where they are at all times and research their surroundings. Be aware,” the university’s police chief said.

The father of three, Lashley takes a keen interest in the safety of college students. “I like to see them stay in groups and always be responsible and accountable for each other,” he said.

Keeping the campus safe is important to Lashley, a native of Salisbury who grew up on his grandfather’s chicken farm and graduated with the Wicomico High School Class of 1975. He’s been chief of the campus police since the summer of 2005, following a long and impressive career in law enforcement.

Lashley was a member of the Maryland State Police for 28 years, retiring in April 2005. Four months later, he took over as chief at the university, where there are 19 officers, including Lashley.

In November 2013, at the request of the Board of Regents, the university became an accredited police agency, upholding internationally acclaimed standards and procedures. Of 12 Maryland schools, six are accredited, including SU. The next closest is in College Park.

Lashley’s days are varied, but on a typical Tuesday, for example, he checks e-mail early as he does regularly, and attends briefings with the staff and supervisors. He learns about events that occurred the previous week, asks about needs, develops plans and discusses long-term strategies.

“I try to stay ahead and be as progressive as I possibly can and surround myself with people who have attributes in technology,” said Lashley, who’s well-spoken and dignified.

He joined the Maryland State Police in Princess Anne, in 1977, and during his career was promoted to lieutenant colonel and held the No. 2 position in the state. Going higher would have meant a political role, and he had no desire for politics, he said.

In 2000, he graduated from the prestigious FBI National Academy, attended by only 2 percent of police worldwide. Students go there from around the world to study the advanced curriculum. “It’s an honor,” Lashley said about the Quantico, Va., institution.

During his career, he worked in the Berlin and Salisbury state police barracks; oversaw Baltimore, Harford and Cecil counties; was assigned to counties on the Eastern Shore; and worked in Pikesville. His family remained in Salisbury and he commuted.

When he was named chief of police for SU, he realized the job is different from being a state trooper and, in some ways, more demanding. While state troopers witness accidents and injuries regularly, and become desensitized,  college campus residents are vulnerable, and students can be traumatized by a single incident.

“A murder on campus can be extremely damaging. Students come here with unique concerns. They are at an impressionable age. They are far away from home. I understand that,” he said.

Thankfully, murder is rare. At SU, the most commonly committed crime is theft.  “It’s a matter of opportunity,” Lashley said, and isn’t always committed by students. A professor might leave her office door open and step out for a minute. Somebody could notice her purse, duck in and take it. Bicycles are often stolen, too, and unattended laptops.

Drugs find their way onto college campuses, as well. Lashley said he realizes opinions differ about use of marijuana, and he doesn’t debate them or benefits. His concern is the marketing of it.

“People who sell illegal drugs are not good people,” he said, explaining he adheres to the “broken window theory,” meaning if a shattered window in a neighborhood is ignored, and not repaired, soon there will be more unsightly glass and the neighborhood will fall into disrepair.

Likewise, he said, a person who peddles marijuana might declare his turf on a campus, and somebody else might try to take that space, or somewhere nearby, and the two could fight, causing an eroding effect on the campus.

“I’m not having that. I’m not going to let that happen,” the chief said, shaking his head.

“I understand what the college experience is supposed to be. I know there is going to be social activity and I’m not opposed to that,” he said.

“What I am opposed to is when students hurt themselves or hurt others.”

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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