VCU Police work to recover after second officer arrest in three years

Mason Brown
Staff Writer

VCU has had three high-profile underage sex cases in the past three years. Two of them have been brought into the spotlight within the last month.

These events, which involved Sgt. James Deford of the VCU Police Department and Martin L. Rengers, director of VCU payroll, put a blemish on VCU’s image.

According to VCU officials, the hiring process is not to blame.

“We do a complete comprehensive check on every officer we employ,” said VCU Police Chief John Venuti. “Our hiring process is nearly identical to Richmond Police. … With the process that we’re using, there (are) not a whole lot of things that can be done that we’re not doing.”

The hiring process for VCU Police differs from Richmond Police in that VCU Police does not require a polygraph exam.

VCU Police require a multi-step, comprehensive application process that uses background checks, letters of reference and documentation regarding education and citizenship. Also, to be a VCU Police officer, an applicant must never have been convicted of a felony or crime involving moral turpitude or domestic violence.

“I’m sorry that this community had to go through this. I’m sorry my staff and personnel had to go through this,” Venuti said. “But I think it’s really, really clear we need the continued support of VCU student, faculty and staff to make … this the safest campus in the nation. When you suffer setbacks like this … it’s hard to recover. I wish we could have done something to stop this, but it came completely out of left field, so we’re all getting up and brushing the dust off.”

Chris Pruess, interim assistant to the chief, has been with the VCU Police force for 19 years. Having been through both situations with Deford and former Chief Fuller, Pruess said that the events hurt the whole staff but just require effort to rebuild trust.

“It’s troublesome … It is like being a pro running back and blowing your knee out, then rehabbing it and trying to make all that effort to get back in the game and you blow it out again,” Pruess said. “But you just got to keep looking forward. We’ve made a lot of progress with working with RPD, the escort service. There is so much positive stuff going on that it’s easy to focus on the negative. It is human nature.”

VCU and VCU Police hope to re-establish trust within the VCU community.

VCU Police are working to launch a new, unrelated iniative to encourage better service from the Police on campus. Similar to the Text2Tip program launched earlier this year, the program would allow individuals to send information regarding officer behavior directly to Chief Venuti.

While Venuti did not have the exact date, he did say it would be launched soon.

1 Comment

  1. This department is a joke. The multiple divisions of the department often work against each other to prevent real work from getting done. If I ever had a life-threatening emergency, VCU Emergency Communications would be the last emergency dispatcher I’d want to rely on to help me. The security guards sleep on the night shift, or watch tv shows on their laptops. The safe ride system is driven by a bunch of pricks. They don’t have enough vehicles to handle the amount of calls. The drivers fall asleep during their shift at night. If you want a ride home from a long night of studying at the library, better call an hour before you plan on getting picked up. And then have your ID in your hand before the drivers tell you to walk home. Oh, and if you experience a sexual assault in an alley on campus at gunpoint… don’t expect the VCU police to investigate. We know it wasn’t the two police that were arrested on sex charges though, who’s next?

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