With changes in University Police (UP) management, newly appointed Assistant Chief Christopher Daniel is looking to make the police agency more transparent and progressive in their operations within the USF community.
Daniel, who has been with UP since 1988, was promoted from lieutenant to assistant chief in January and was given the responsibility of all agency operations from Chief JD Withrow. Since then, Daniel has been working with officers to emphasize community-based policing and inform the public about UP expertise and activities.
“It’s not necessarily a rebranding, but just enhancing the image of the officers that we have,” Daniel said. “With the recent changes in January, we are trying to change some of the perceptions and things that have been in place over the years. There’s no reason why we can’t be progressive and still provide great service to the community. Both of those things go hand in hand.”
One of Daniel’s main projects is getting the word out about the expertise of the professional staff within the department. Though Daniel admits the perception of UP as a professional police agency might not cross the minds of many students at USF, the agency has hired talent from much bigger law enforcement agencies, including officers with military backgrounds.
“We have officers who have been full-time paramedics and now serve as our tactical medical people,” Daniel said. “There’s just a lot of unknowns and a lot of hidden talent within the agency and I think it’s important for the community to know we are very selective in who we pick.”
One such officer is Magali Santiago. Before being hired on with UP, she was a narcotics detective with Newark Police Department for three years, working with patrol officers and the community members to target areas of high-level narcotics trade.
Santiago left UP in 2011 after four years with the agency to relocate with her husband who is in the military. She came back to the agency in early September.
Santiago said she has chosen to stick with UP because the community-oriented approach of the agency allows her to focus on giving students, faculty and staff a higher level of customer service.
“Most officers initially become law enforcement officers because there is a sense of pride that comes with the job; there’s a sense of helping the community,” she said. “When you go into an agency where there is a high volume of calls, you lose sight of that.”
Santiago, along with Officer Richard Curry, who comes from a military background, will start heading out to local police academies and other agencies to recruit for UP.
“We want to make them aware that USF does have a fully accredited state law enforcement agency here,” Santiago said.
The agency has also been working to fill eight additional officer positions they were given in March. Daniel said UP has been attempting to fill those positions with officers who subscribe to the same mentality of community service that he is trying to push the agency toward.
“Don’t get me wrong, we put people in jail if they need it,” Daniel said. “But we also realize through that process we have some other ripple effects that we need to be cognizant of. This community requires more sensitive handling of certain things and that’s where these officers key in.”
By way of transparency, Daniel recently placed all new lieutenants in public information officer training in order to step up the agency’s efforts to be more visible and available to the media and the local community.
UP also updated its data suite for their online police logs that now have up-to-date crime reports with mapped locations of where incidents occurred. Daniel said the switch allows UP to better report crime statistics and sexual assaults in compliance with the Clery Act.
“If we are putting out ‘Hey, we arrested guys with bikes, we did this, we arrested people for credit card fraud,’ now people are starting to get it that we are effective; we’re helping to educate you and it’s all coming full circle,” he said.
In October, or early November, UP will host an open house where members of the community can take a guided tour of the facility to see the new renovations and how their dispatch center operates.
“We want to let people see who we are, we want people to see what we have,” Daniel said. “The equipment we will have at the open house will have static displays, we’ll have the tactical truck, the Humvee, the detectives will have a presentation with what they have, our special deployment will have their bikes out there.”
Daniel said they will use the open house to make more students and community members aware of their programs, such as bike theft registration and property registration for electronics.
The agency also began clearing an area in front the main office where they will erect a fallen officer memorial with the help of Physical Plant and Bay Monument Company. Once complete, Officer George Mann, the first and only UP officer to be killed in the line of duty, will be the first name engraved on the memorial.
Daniel said UP hopes to have the monument in place by the end of the fall semester.