Temple University President Jason Wingard (Philadelphia Tribune photo).
By Stephen Williams
PHILADELPHIA — Temple University President Jason Wingard said he will be convening a group of stakeholders to seek ideas to stop the gun violence that is at the school’s doorstep.
The group will include city, state, federal officials, along with corporate and civic leaders, Wingard told the Philadelphia Tribune,
The Temple family is still mourning the death of Christopher Fitzgerald, a 31-year-old Temple policer officer, was shot and killed last Saturday near 17th Street and Montgomery Avenue, while pursuing a robbery suspect.
The following day, an 18-year-old Bucks County man was arrested and charged with the murder of Fitzgerald and other crimes. In keeping with its policy, the Capital-Star is not identifying the accused shooter.
Fitzgerald, the son of law enforcement officers, was a popular officer who volunteered in community and anti-violence initiatives. He leaves behind a wife and four children.
It marked the first time a Temple police officer was killed in the line of duty.
A viewing was held Thursday night at John F. Givnish Funeral Home on Academy Road. There will be a second viewing from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Friday at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, on Race Street, with the funeral to follow.
On Friday, former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey was set to present the findings of a safety audit of Temple’s campus and off campus.
Ramsey who was the city’s police commissioner from 2008 to 2016, during a time when homicides decreased. Ramsey has also been chief of police in Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Ramsey has done safety audits at Drexel, Harvard and Yale universities. After the shooting death near campus of Samuel Collington, a Temple student in November 2021, Temple formed a task force and hired Ramsey.
Ramsey and his team will also help Temple implement the findings, Wingard said.
“We find ourselves in the current context where there is an extreme amount of gun violence across this country and right here in Philadelphia and the epicenter is here in North Philadelphia and at its at our doorstep,” Wingard said. “This is a systemic problem that many people have been trying fix for a number or years and it takes a collaborative effort.”
According to Wingard, he can’t fulfill his mandate of providing a first-class education for students, if their community isn’t or doesn’t feel safe. One of four, state-related universities, Temple received a $158.2 million appropriation in the 2022-23 state budget.
Wingard acknowledged that in the last 15 to 20 years, the school’s rapid growth has outpaced its ability to build student housing and has result in displacement of some North Philadelphia residents and resulted in more students living outside of Temple’s security zone.
“We don’t have enough housing to support all of our students,” Wingard said.
Building more housing is one of the things on the table to release the pressure on the community trying to accommodate these students, but that will take time, he said.
During a briefing Tuesday about Fitzgerald’s slaying, Temple’s director of Public Safety Jennifer Griffin said that Fitzgerald was alone in a patrol car as a result of staffing shortages that affect city police and departments across the nation.
“There are more retirements and attrition, than applicants,” she said.
It was announced that Temple Police will now patrol in pairs in the wake of the shooting, but Griffin said that will cut the number of campus cars on patrol.
“One of the challenges with moving to a two-officer car is now you reduce the number of vehicles on campus and around the area. So, as opposed to having 10 cars out there with officers or whatever the deployment number would be, you reduce that by half,” she said.
“Campus safety is our No. 1 problem, but it is not our No. 1 area of expertise,” Wingard said. “We are going to bring in those who know more about law enforcement and public safety and gun control. We need smart leadership. We need advice. We need convening power. We need solutions.”
Stephen Williams is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.
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