After having no Public Safety Director for three years, James Basinger steps into the role



James B. Basinger presents his plans for emergency preparedness while applying for job as director of public safety on Oct. 3, 2019, in Pelletier Library.

Allegheny has been without a full-time director of public safety for three years — last semester they filled the post.

James B. Basinger was hired at the end of the Fall 2019 semester. He officially assumed duties on Monday, Jan. 20. 

Before coming to Allegheny Basinger was a member of the Pennsylvania State Police for 25 years. During the last 19 months on the job he was assigned to work in Harrisburg. As a resident of Meadville, this was a hard trip to make, according to Basinger. 

“In my previous job I would have to leave on Sunday and drive to Harrisburg, and then come home Friday evening,” Basinger said. “I had to keep an apartment down there. I had taken the position as it was a promotion, but I had no possibility of transferring home because there were no positions in the rank of major in this area. I became eligible to retire (from that position) in July. So I officially retired on Jan. 10 and started (at Allegheny on) Jan. 20.” 

Basinger added that a lot of people he worked with in the past have worked or are currently working at Allegheny, including Interim Director of Public Safety William Merchbaker. 

Merchbaker first met Basinger when he was a teenager and then again when Basinger became a State trooper. 

“We first worked together at the Meadville Police Barracks,” Merchbaker said. “(Basinger) was my boss then as a State trooper, and now he’s my boss again.”

Merchbaker expressed how he thought it was great to be working with Basinger again, and that Basinger had a lot of innovative ideas for Allegheny’s Department of Public Safety. 

“He has a lot of good, progressive ideas,” Merchabaker said. “I think he’s going to really be able to move our department forward. He has a lot of experience in both law enforcement and administrative wise, and I think it will be nice to have (him) in this leadership role.”

After the college not having an official director for three years, Basinger described the job as already being extremely busy, but that was what he expected.“My initial impressions are that it is just what I thought it would be,” Basinger said. “It’s a very busy job and everyone wants to tell me everything that needs addressed. Not things that are wrong, but things that need to be addressed as there hasn’t been a full time public safety director here for over three years.”

Basinger added that he was on a tour of campus and heard from different department heads about how aspects of Allegheny can be improved. Basinger also said that because he is only two weeks into the job, major plans are still being developed, especially since public safety is short-staffed. 

“To be a good leader you need to come in and assess what you have and what’s going on, assess what resources you have and identify any deficiencies,” Basinger said. “So we’re still in that stage of the process. Public safety is currently running short-handed, and we have been for quite some time. Unlike any other job out there, this is a 24/7 operation. We have to have coverage for three shifts every day, and that’s tough.” 

Basinger said that a main goal is to hire more officers, keeping diversity in mind. This includes making the position of officer more appealing to applicants to be able to hire “good, quality people.”

Along similar lines, Basinger described part of his plan for equality and inclusion training for his officers, especially after the assault in Ravine-Narvik Hall last semester. 

“With all of the incidents that have occurred this last year on campus, we want to make sure we have good people,” Basinger said. “We want to make sure they’re highly trained. … (Kristen Dukes, dean for institutional diversity) and I have discussed the possibility of bringing a recruiter from the state police who also conducts equality and inclusion training, but he does it from the police mindset.”

Basinger added that if this happens, the recruiter and Dukes would lead this training jointly. 

This training is one of several steps that public safety is working on to increase security around campus after the events of last semester, according to Basinger. Others include continued construction and cutting down of excess shrubbery around campus, along with the newly installed peepholes in doors and fixing door locks. 

“We will continue to address (these problems) as we move forward,” Basinger said. “We’re going to make public safety a topic at orientation, and try to stress the importance of that.”

He also expressed his excitement to be working at Allegheny, as he has seen what Allegheny means to the community after having lived in Meadville for 25 years. 

“I’ve seen what Allegheny College has done for this community,” Basinger said. “I’m a neighbor to this college, I think positively of it. I use it as a landmark when people ask where I’m from. I take pride in this community and I’m proud to be a part of the Allegheny community.”