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March 11, 2023

Temple University receives $1.7 million in state funding to upgrade police technology

The public safety grant comes after Temple police officer Christopher Fitzgerald was fatally shot on duty last month

Government Grants
Temple University Safety Grant Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

Temple University received a $1.7 million grant from Pennsylvania's Commission on Crime and Delinquency to make upgrades to its police department's technology and help recruit and retain officers in the wake of the shooting death of Christopher Fitzgerald on Feb. 18.

Temple University received $1.7 million in state funding this week to upgrade its police department's technology and enhance public safety on its North Philadelphia campus after one of its officers, Christopher Fitzgerald, was shot to death while on duty in February. 

The state grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency will support Temple's police in upgrading gunshot detection and license plate reader technology, officer retention, recruitment bonuses, crisis intervention, de-escalation training, rape aggression defense training, security cameras and improvements to its crime reporting system. 

"How can we honor the life of such a positive role model and take steps to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again?" Sen. Vincent Hughes, a Democrat representing portions of Philadelphia and Montgomery counties, said in a release. "We can put the guns down, we can invest in our communities and our young people, and we can make sure more resources, like this grant, make their way to the Temple University Police Department so that its officers are equipped with what they need to stay safe while protecting and serving the Temple community." 

Fitzgerald, who was posthumously promoted to sergeant, was shot and killed shortly after 7 p.m. on Feb. 18 while making a pedestrian stop of three people near Temple's campus. He had been patrolling the neighborhood alone and investigating carjackings when he was gunned down, police said. 

Miles Pfeffer, an 18-year-old from Bucks County, was arrested the following day and has been charged with murder. Since Fitzgerald's killing, the university has faced increased criticism and scrutiny over public safety concerns and response from its leadership. 

The university's faculty union, which is made up of 2,500 members, is set to meet on March 17 to consider holding a vote of no confidence in President Jason Wingard amid heightening concerns over public safety and the six-week strike by the Temple University Graduate Students Association, 6ABC reported. 

"This grant will enable the Temple Police Department to add innovation and crime-fighting technology to our already robust public safety program," Wingard said. "The swift action from Governor Shapiro, Lt. Gov. Davis, and the PCCD board is impactful, timely and catalyzing as Temple focuses on stronger, more advanced initiatives."

The grant comes as police departments across the country are struggling to recruit and retain officers. After Samuel Collington, a student from Delaware County, was shot near the university's campus in November 2021, Wingard pledged to increase the police force by 50%

By January, the school had just 72 officers, less than it had after Collington's death, the Inquirer reported. The university has hired Philadelphia police officers to work overtime patrolling near the campus. 

Last week, Jennifer D. Griffin, Temple's vice president of public safety, released an update on the university's efforts to enhance safety on campus. Temple's police officers are now returning to work in two officer partner capacities in order to prevent another incident like Fitzgerald's killing from happening again. 

Other changes being implemented include more communication on the university's social media pages regarding safety issues on and around campus, increasing mental health resources for students and staff, recruiting additional officers and working with the FBI, Philadelphia Police Department and neighboring universities on its public safety response.