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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
Though policing a large urban campus is their primary job, University of Cincinnati (Ohio) Department of Public Safety’s Police Division (UCPD) officers also work with the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) to maintain the safety of the surrounding neighborhoods. And as shown in the photo of C’Zaya Johnson sharing a secret with former UCPD Officer Wendy Martin during the department’s December 2019 Shop with a Cop event, the officers go out of their way to maintain good relations with all of the area residents, including the youngest.
According to Officer Martin, the officers who volunteered to shop with the kids that day had as much fun as the children did. “They had a great time and I had a blast too,” she recalled. “After getting clothes, toys, and some Barbie doll things, C’Zaya whispered into my ear what she wanted to get for her brothers, who were shopping nearby with their officers. We got a basketball for one of the boys and played in the store for a few minutes.”
Though it’s likely the most popular event with the area’s children, Shop with a Cop is only one of the UCPD’s community activities. The department engages with local people in the neighborhoods surrounding the university’s campus on a personal level during daily foot patrols, as well as at community meetings and local events such as the CPD’s National Night Out in Districts Four and Five.
But the department’s main focus is maintaining the safety and security of the campus of the University of Cincinnati and its approximately 46,000 students and 10,000 faculty and staff members. And they frequently interact with students on campus patrols as well as activities such as a Campus Safety Fair, a Welcome Week “Block Party,” and a Public Safety Walk held in collaboration with the University’s Healthy UC program.
Asked what he likes most about campus police work, Captain David Hoffman says, “The community service aspect first and foremost. In municipal departments, you’re usually running with the radio on. Here we have more discretionary time, and that includes time to talk to students, staff and people in the surrounding area.
“Though we are law enforcement, our main focus is to be a resource, to help students and staff to have a great experience while they go to school or work here,” he adds. “We do whatever we can to facilitate that.”
To that end, the department strives to create a safe environment. One tool they use for this is a campus safety app called the Bearcat Guardian, which is named after the school mascot and free to all UC students, faculty, and staff.
Bearcat Guardian is a mobile app that enables fast and easy connection to campus police during an emergency. Additional features include a safety timer so that friends or family can virtually “walk” with the user, a chat feature for instant communication with UCPD dispatchers, and an emergency call button.
One situation in which Bearcat Guardian proved very valuable involved UCPD Emergency Communications dispatcher Ted Langdon, who received a message from a student who was attempting to harm herself.
Although she had contacted Langdon through the Bearcat Guardian app, the student did not want to provide her location and said she did not want help. So Langdon used the app’s GPS locator to determine the student’s general location and the building she was likely to be in, then dispatched officers and emergency medical services.
By continuing to speak with the student through the app, he was able to persuade her to give him her room number. Thanks to his efforts, police and EMS found her and provided the help she needed.
The department also has an access control division, responsible for security devices such as intrusion alarms, card swipe devices, and key locks. And they work with all of the university’s departments to come up with a continuity plan if normal business is compromised because of an accident or weather.
The UCPD also works directly with students and staff. Every year, new students and employees go through orientation, and the department handles this for both groups, explaining the safety resources available to them and providing tips for preventing victimization. They also attend meetings with and make presentations to student groups, staff, and faculty and meet monthly with student government.
Recognizing that stress plagues a lot of college students, all UCPD officers and dispatchers are also trained in mental health issues. The department recently took an additional step to improve their response to those suffering from mental illness by completing the One Mind Campaign pledge.
Created by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the One Mind Campaign program requires law enforcement agencies to maintain a clearly defined and sustainable partnership with one or more community health organizations. They must also implement a policy for addressing response to people in crisis or with mental health issues and provide training to all sworn personnel as well as dispatchers.
“This is a resource for the community because it gives our officers and our dispatchers a better understanding of how to respond to people in a mental health crisis and to help them get the resources they need,” said Assistant Police Chief Dudley Smith.
In addition to meeting the varied needs of a college campus and community, the UCPD provides traditional police service. The department of 72 sworn and 26 security officers has its own criminal investigation section and handles all on-campus issues.
“Though theft is the most common crime on campus, we saw a spike in burglaries in off-campus student housing,” said Assistant Chief Smith. “So we started a program that decreased it, and the department is a finalist for a Goldstein Award from the Arizona State University Center for Problem-Oriented Policing for our work in reducing burglaries in off campus student housing.”
Because a large percentage of their students live off campus, the UCPD patrols the surrounding areas as well. And depending upon the nature of the case, they work hand in hand with the city’s police department too.
Explaining how they collaborate with the CPD, Assistant Chief Smith said, “When things happen off campus, the city is responsible for police reports; but we do a secondary report if the situation involves a student who is off campus. UC’s Student Affairs department gets involved too if students are impacted by crime off campus. They take the report, then we follow up to provide victim services.”
UCPD and CPD leaders meet regularly to review crime statistics, discuss trends, and collaboratively strategize on the best tactics to reduce crime and improve public safety in areas surrounding UC’s Uptown campus. A nightly debriefing also occurs between third shift lieutenants from the UCPD and the CPD to ensure seamless communication and to plan coordinated patrols.
Though the emphasis is on safety and security, relationship building and service to everybody in the area is a big part of their policing efforts. As the holiday season approaches, Director of Business Affairs Christie Joslin says that Shop with a Cop has been a wonderful opportunity for UCPD officers to connect with members of the community beyond the campus.
“Our officers look forward to this every year. And this photo reflects how we strive to form positive relationships with our community, and to give back,” she said.
Faye C. Elkins
Sr. Technical Writer
Photos courtesy of the University of Cincinnati Department of Public Safety’s Police Division.
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