University Police is operating with about half the officers it needs to patrol the USF Campus at night.
For some time, moreover, the department has been shedding officers, unable to recruit – or keep, for that matter – new hires, because UP’s base pay pales in comparison to other local law enforcement agencies. There are nine job openings available at UP, and officials attribute a recent rash of bike thefts to the sheer lack of officers on campus.
At first glance, a grant recently awarded to UP by the Hillsborough County Bureau of Justice (HCBJ) could be taken as a boon to the struggling law enforcement agency: Money for officers and equipment seems like nothing to scoff at in light of budget cuts and University-wide penny-pinching.
When read a little closer, however, it becomes clear that the grant is quite a burden, pumping some money into UP while simultaneously draining officers away from the campus where they’re direly needed.
As detailed in today’s Oracle, the grant would be used to pay the salaries of four UP officers as well as for two patrol cars. The caveat, however, is that UP’s jurisdiction – the area it’s charged with protecting – will now include the crime-ridden area running from Fletcher Avenue north to Bruce B. Downs, between 46th Street west and 42nd Street.
An HCBJ spokeswoman described the grant’s requirements as “more of a memorandum of understanding with the other two agencies (Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the Tampa Police Department).”
Still, the thinning ranks of UP are pressed for time and resources as it is, and it’s uncertain whether the grant money will result in more hires or help to retain officers. After all, if UP is going to patrol a larger area, it probably needs more officers in order to do so. Without that guarantee, the possibility remains that the same number of UP officers will take more territory under its already-battered wing.
The sheer math of the deal doesn’t seem to help UP. Nine officers are needed either, so even if UP hired the four people whose salaries are paid for by the grant, that would leave five positions unfilled. Again, the problem of more territory and fewer officers persists.
UP does a good job despite the institutional blows of budget cuts and sluggish salary negotiations with the University, but it cannot expect to protect students adequately if its responsibilities outweigh its resources.