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Changes to IMA’s Security Program

Today is one of those days when what needs to happen is not what you would want to happen.  In an effort to manage the museum as effectively as possible we’re making some difficult changes in our security department.  We wanted to be as clear as possible about the reasons for these changes so we asked Katie Zarich, our Deputy Director of Public Affairs, to walk us through.

As we roll out a new security program, we say goodbye to 33 full-time and 23 part-time security officers whose positions have been eliminated. These individuals served with diligence and care, and they helped to keep our visitors and our artwork safe for years, and in some cases decades. Unfortunately, we were unable to meet the objectives of enhancing security at 100 Acres; responding to potentially serious incidents that arise on the IMA campus, and reducing the cost of the security program with the previous staffing model.

What is the new program?

The new model enables protection of visitors and artwork through its three distinct job functions: campus police officers; communications and monitoring specialists; and visitor assistants.

  1. A key component of the program is the campus police force made up of 14 officers. The officers, who are reserve officers of area police forces, are employees of the IMA, and they provide patrols of the campus as well as security to the museum. Their patrol cars and uniforms identify them as police officers, and their presence also will serve to deter crime. Should an incident that requires a police response occur at the IMA, we no longer need to call the police and wait for them to respond. Our campus police officers are able to take police reports and follow other police protocols.
  2. The communications and monitoring function uses an elaborate electronic surveillance system to monitor museum galleries and outdoor areas.
  3. The visitor assistants are trained ambassadors of the museum experience; they are posted throughout museum galleries and the rest of the campus. The visitor assistant staff, which is composed of students from a federally funded work study program at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), will provide enhanced customer service as they will be available to answer questions or assist visitors throughout the IMA’s 152 acres.

We also have added two Emergency Medical Technicians who are able to respond to medical needs that arise in 100 Acres or elsewhere on the campus.

Why did we implement a new security program?

  1. This summer we opened 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park. The park has been filled with visitors since opening day, and it requires an ongoing security presence.
  2. The IMA has a reputation for being a safe place. Regrettably, we’d seen some incidents that could threaten that reputation.  We’ve had numerous car break-ins, and we had been unable to curb that problem, despite increased security patrols.
  3. The security department makes up a large percentage of the IMA’s payroll, and in an effort to budget efficiently and effectively, we had to substantially reduce the cost of our security personnel budget.

This new model for the IMA’s security department was envisioned by Nick Cameron, the IMA’s Chief Operating Officer and was thoroughly vetted by IMA staff and public safety and security professionals. For several weeks, Martin Whitfield, the IMA’s Director of Security, has worked with a team to staff the new positions, and to ensure that all team members are properly trained.

As times have changed and our museum and its campus have grown, so too must our security measures.  This new program is necessary in order to better protect the 152 acre campus.  Implementing the new program was a process not undertaken lightly. We are sincerely grateful for the years of service that our security officers dedicated to the IMA, and we are providing outplacement services and other benefits to them.

Filed under: Current Events, Local, Protection Services

5 Responses to “Changes to IMA’s Security Program”

  • avatar
    VetMedic Says:

    I do wonder how many accountants, Directors and so on, ad nauseum, who manage the various portfolios and endowments for IMA were summarily FIRED and replaced by work-study students from IUPUI? Should this heartless effort prove successful (let alone moral or legal), then I suggest that IMA outsource their nascent work-study program to some poor third world nation which might accept much less than the $10.00 per hour that taxpayers are currently handing over to sustain the business plan of the IMA. By the way, just where were the DIRECTORS when this initiative was suggested?
    I’ll be visting any other gallery than the IMA.

  • avatar
    Dale Kronkright Says:

    The first question is – will other museums and private owners lend works to IMA for exhibitions if there are no professional, in-gallery security and emergency response museum security personnel? Perpetrators of museum theft and vandalism sometimes rely on creating distractions in galleries – feigned accidents, health emergencies, smoke bombs, electrical shorts and museum security personnel are trained to not only secure all art and exits in their assigned areas WHILE addressing the distraction, but also profile physical features of the people in their assigned galleries at the time incidents occur. Will student “ambassadors” respond in a professionally responsible way in such emergencies? Will museum visitors in the junior high-school demographic respect near-peer gallery authority in a climate where violating teacher authority is now a major endeavor for many 12-15 year old classroom students? These are the “bugger-flickers”, painting pokers, chewing gum-stickers and label-graffiti artists that every museum works to thwart, every day. Can college student “ambassadors” truly keep the art in the galleries safe? It is one thing to record damage to art in galleries using a digital video surveillance system. It is another thing, entirely, to prevent damage to art in galleries.

    The second question is how the community will respond to a museum that staked its reputation on BUILDING the local economy that then eliminates some 56 jobs within their community?

    The third question – is this the beginning of the erosion of Max Anderson’s grand re-definition of what museums can become in the digital 21st Century? Is the experiment to leverage sustained, major support for a museum through the development of a high-profile digital, web-audience and digital engagement proving to be more difficult than imagined? Is balancing a programmatically enriched and diverse budget more difficult than simply getting philanthropists excited about climbing aboard a new, high-speed train?

  • avatar
    Jeri Says:

    Shame on the IMA for dismissing these wonderful people who have families, responsibilities, and bills to pay. Every staff member that I have met at the museum was friendly and professional. These mature folks added something positive to my visits. As a former teaching professional and coach, I find it hard to believe that your new “staff” will be as gracious and hard working as those that you have dismissed and I for one am glad to know that someone is investigating this shameful episode in the IMA’s decision making process.

  • avatar
    MidwestLove Says:

    There are a few things I would like to address to those nay-sayers about the new security at the IMA. First of all, the supervisors of the Visitor Assistant program have gone above and beyond to hire the best, most-responsible, and enthusiastic of students. Most of them are GRADUATE students with much respect and dedication to the arts, museum studies, or criminal justice. Please don’t assume these jobs are just given away. The students are being given a great opportunity to succeed in their respective felids. It may seem the changes have come at the expense of other, more experienced security officers, but really it is a response to the needs of the IMA. In these uncertain times, with the economy the way it is, and donors and endowments dropping like flies, it is in the best interest of the IMA and the COMMUNITY to accept change and keep the doors of the IMA open!!

    From my own personal experience, don’t knock it till you try it. I have visited the IMA on several occasions since the “changes” and I have found that the students are more knowledgable about the artwork, collections, museum history, and are much more willing to engage with the public; which significantly enhances my experience there. In a lot of cases, I have discovered that even the docents give wrong information. At least the students have the decency to read the plaque on the wall, rather than making something up.

    As far as safety is concerned, all of the students have been throughly trained in all evacuation procedures and measures. And if you look closely, they all carry walkie-talkies(just as the old officers did) to have the ability to contact one another quickly, know what’s going on at all times all over the campus. The more eyes and ears, the better. And it is proven that criminals are deterred not only by police officers, but those in uniform. If they know and feel that they are being watched, they are much less likely to pull off some “deterring stunt” to steal or damage the art.

    I hope that this will give some of you a fresh perspective on the happenings at the IMA. I only ask that you keep an open mind and if you want more reassurance, go talk to them yourself. They are just as friendly, if not more approachable than the old system of officers. Change is the future people, it happens all the time everywhere. Be proud that the IMA has the guts to be one of the first museums in the country to attempt such a undertaking. Once again, our city is in the forefront and we will prevail. No guts- NO GLORY!!

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