After a three-year process, the Otterbein University Security Department will complete its transition to the Otterbein Police Department on Friday, July 1.

After a three-year process, the Otterbein University Security Department will complete its transition to the Otterbein Police Department on Friday, July 1.

The purpose of the transition is "to improve safety services for the campus community," Otterbein Police Chief Larry Banaszak said.

"Right now, we're a security department, so we don't have any authority to operate with police powers. We can't investigate crime. We can't stop crimes in progress," Banaszak said. "We're going to have all the traditional law enforcement responsibilities on campus that any other police department would have."

The university's 10 full-time security officers received training and certification through the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission and were commissioned as police officers in February 2009.

"We wanted to give our officers all the tools they need to protect our campus," Bob Gatti, vice president and dean for Otterbein Student Affairs, said of the transition.

Although sworn in more than two years ago, the officers have not been acting as a police department but instead have been focusing on the administrative and legal requirements to successfully complete the conversion.

The Otterbein Police Department will have full police authority on campus-owned or -controlled property.

"In addition to that, we have a mutual agreement with the city of Westerville that allows for us to have jurisdiction on the streets and sidewalks, and public areas in the campus area," Banaszak said.

Westerville City Manager David Collinsworth said city officials have worked closely with university representatives to help ensure a smooth transition.

"The city has been working collaboratively with Otterbein University for the past two years on their planned transition from a security operation to a full-blown, sworn police agency," Collinsworth said. "This includes entering into agreements with the university for mutual aid and emergency communications/dispatching services which the city will be providing. It is the city's goal to help ensure a successful security transition for OU for the benefit of the entire campus and Westerville community."

"We look at it as a force multiplier for us," Westerville Police Chief Joe Morbitzer said. "We've always worked very well with Otterbein."

He said that since the two departments have been training together, the Westerville community can expect to see the same level of service as there has always been.

"I really like the aspect of us training side by side," he said. "That keeps us on the same page, and that's extremely important when you're working so close together."

The Otterbein Police Department will continue its responsibilities as a security department after the conversion.

"Everything we do now as a security department we'll also do as a police department," Banaszak said. "It's just that we'll have the additional law-enforcement responsibilities."