On a campus of more than 40,000 students, images of police officers and students chatting on a casual basis or knowing each other by face may seem somewhat far removed.
But after former Assistant Police Chief J.D. Withrow became acting police chief last fall and has since filled the permanent role, University Police (UP) is making a concerted effort to grow its visible presence through increased foot, bike and motorcycle patrol on campus in an initiative to be more “community-minded.”
Withrow accepted the permanent position in January at the request of Vice President for Administrative Services Sandy Lovins, who said former police chief Thomas Longo announced his retirement at the end of last summer to deal with personal matters.
Lovins said the change in leadership presented an opportunity to re-evaluate how the university could best use its resources to become more community-based.
“Safety is such a critical component of faculty, staff and students,” Lovins said. “Crime, as we all know, can happen on the interior of campus as well.”
Currently, UP consists of four shifts of four to five sworn officers in the patrol division, two residential officers, three detectives and a supervisor in investigations, one crime prevention unit officer, a marine unit and a bike squad in addition to communications, administrative, records and accreditation staff, according to the UP.
Lovins said the university planned to invest about $336,000 in additional resources, in the form of eight new law enforcement officers to be infused onto campus to have “more visible exchanges regularly between students and parents.”
Withrow said UP intends to work on becoming better partners with the community.
“There are no walls or moats or mountains that separate us,” he said.
He also said UP’s job is to provide a secure campus, but also to teach students to value life over property.
“We will never apologize for enforcing the law, but sometimes we do have alternatives and certain things can be educational and used as teachable moments,” he said.