SFU appoints new chief safety officer amid campus concerns

Mark LaLonde has experience with the Vancouver Police and the Justice Institute of BC.

Following sexual assault allegations and privacy issues in campus washrooms, Mark LaLonde has stepped in as SFU’s new chief safety officer as of June 6.

LaLonde brings a wealth of experience to the position. “My entire career has been focused on public safety, and risk management, and human security,” he said in an interview with The Peak. After working with the Vancouver Police for 12 years, LaLonde took a position at the Justice Institute of BC, and later worked for various non-police agencies. He also spent years working with a national risk mitigation firm.

What attracted LaLonde to the position at SFU was the energy and dedication on campus, as well as the critical role his position played in the larger dynamic of SFU. Additionally, the fact that LaLonde’s friend and former police colleague Terry Waterhouse had been a chief safety officer gave him a glimpse of a working environment that he found appealing.

LaLonde has also previously contracted SFU grad students for research, and been a guest speaker in some of the classes. His mother and one of his sisters are SFU graduates.

For LaLonde, his most rewarding work has also been his most challenging. He did consulting work with the UN in areas such as South East Asia, the Middle East, and East Africa. Some of these projects focused on the protection of women and young girls from threats such as human trafficking, intimate partner violence, and commercial sexual exploitation.

Coming into his role as chief safety officer, LaLonde named his number one goal as “the safety of students, staff, and faculty.” Along with their physical safety, he spoke about addressing the emotional and psychological safety of students through resources such as the Health and Counselling Services, Student Services, the Women’s Centre, and Out on Campus.

When asked about the recent sexual assault issues SFU has been dealing with, LaLonde said SFU is taking a firm approach.

“Our entire process is survivor-centric,” he declared.

He spoke to the policies and protocols in place at SFU to ensure immediate and appropriate attention is given to students who raise concerns. Additionally, LaLonde is working on an ongoing campus initiative to develop new sexual violence policies, such as protocol enhancement, prevention training and awareness, and communication programs to discuss issues such as consent.

In regards to the washroom privacy incidents, LaLonde advised SFU students to “be vigilant at all times, be aware of [your] surroundings, and report incidents in as much detail as possible quickly so that security and the police can respond.” In addition, he spoke about how campus security has stepped up its patrol in key areas.

LaLonde looks forward to working with his team at SFU to oversee the safety and security for the entire community. He strongly believes in the effectiveness of his communication and policy reforms, to deal with the safety issues with which university is currently struggling.