EMU chief of police speaks with Student Government about racial graffiti investigation

Bob Heighes (right), chief of Eastern Michigan University's police department, speaking with members of Student Government on Nov. 1 regarding EMU PD's investigation of the racial graffiti incidents on campus. 

Members of Eastern Michigan University's Student Government spoke with Bob Heighes, chief of EMU's Police Department, on Nov. 1 about EMU PD's ongoing investigation of the racial graffiti incidents on campus.

EMU PD currently has no leads in their six-week investigation of the three known graffiti incidents despite partnering with Michigan State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies in the area.

Sen. Brianna Moore asked, "Have you all made any type of connection or have any type of assumption of who might've done this, or a group, or an individual?"

Heighes indirectly answered Sen. Moore by stating that multiple tips have been investigated through interviews, polygraph examinations, search warrants and other resources.

"Hopefully the $10,000 [reward] that the University put up will get somebody to step up and volunteer. We, like all of you, we want this solved," Heighes said. "When we do [solve] this we're gonna shout it from the top of every building on this campus. We're gonna have a press conference, all you can come and be on that stage and participate, but that's our goal."

According to Heighes particles and evidence have been collected from the graffiti sites and are currently being analyzed at a crime lab. There are no conclusive findings yet from the evidence that was collected.

The first racial graffiti was spray painted on the exterior wall of King Hall on Tuesday, Sept. 20 and a second racial slur was spray painted a day later in the stairwell of Wise Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 21. Last week a third racial slur was found spray painted on the exterior wall of Ford Hall on Monday, Oct. 31.

In response to these graffiti incidents the University has performed several actions:

  • Increased EMU PD patrols near the student residence halls
  • Increased contracted security presence near the student residence halls
  • Hired 15 security guards to patrol the campus during the evening
  • Participated in community forums to learn of concerns from the campus community
  • Installed security cameras and lighting near the King Hall courtyard
  • Took a survey of the exterior of every building on EMU's main campus
  • Reviewed hundreds of hours of video footage
  • Consideration of increased lighting and additional security cameras

There are currently 800 security cameras on campus and the University plans on providing funding for a total of 2,000 security cameras.

Student Body President Tanasia Morton asked if the contracted security that was hired went through training for cultural competency and how to interact with college students. Heighes responded that while the training isn't as comprehensive as EMU PD's, contracted security does undergo cultural competency training.

"We try to make sure that the security company has cultural diversity awareness-type training," Heighes said. "We do recognize that we ask the people that are working for that company not be 19 or 20-years-old, but be older, more mature to work with our students."

Heighes answered a few other questions from members of Student Government before calling for their support.

"You are Student Government and you have a voice. We need your support. We support all of you, we work for all of you, you're my boss," Heighes said. "Your [student] safety is first and foremost to our department and I can't tell you how much we appreciate the support from all of you at different times that you've engaged with us."

Anyone with information pertaining to the racial graffiti incidents can contact EMU Police at 734-487-1222 or their tip line at 734-487-4847.

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