UTPD: Safety Is Everyone’s Business
"Enforcement through Cooperation" is the motto of the UT Police Department, but it’s also the personal mantra of Police Chief August Washington.
"I really believe that students, faculty, staff and visitors to the university really want to have a safe community, but we can’t do it by ourselves. We need cooperation from everyone," said Washington, who has made significant changes at UTPD—many of them designed to improve the relationship between the de-partment and the campus community—since taking the helm of the department two years ago.
With that same goal in mind, the UTPDs ‘s 50 police officers and 60 security officers have continued to expand the ways it reaches out to students.
"This fall we’re definitely doing more proactive programming instead of reactive programming," said Lt. Emily Simerly of the Community Relations Unit.
For instance, last month was National Campus Safety Awareness Month, and to help promote safety awareness, the UTPD put on "Taking PrecaUTions Day," which featured activities such as free property engraving, rape aggression defense (RAD) demos and fatal vision "DUI" goggles.
Students can still call the UTPD to set up appointments for property engraving on items such as laptops and bicycles.
To acquaint students with campus safety tools, the UTPD challenged students to participate in a scavenger hunt called "Play It Safe and Win." The grand prize was an Ipod Shuffle.
Now, to encourage increased communications, the department is appointing more "liaisons," or officers who work directly with specific groups.
UTPD already has liaisons for both the men’s and women’s athletic departments.
"We’re in the works through our unit to provide a liaison for fraternities, sororities, residential housing and the Black Cultural Center," Simerly said.
Within the last 15 months, UTPD reformatted its Crime Prevention unit to the Community Relations Unit (CRU), whose primary goal is to provide community-based police services that include educational programming, victim assistance, crime statistics, silent witness and the community liaison.
New literature is available from the CRU on topics such as theft prevention, alcohol choices, bicycle safety, pedestrian safety and self-defense.
Community Service Officer Program (CSO)—which Washington calls "a spinoff on the old security guard program"—s also indicative of the many changes taking place in the department.
Before Washington arrived, most of the security guards didn’t wear uniforms and weren’t trained.
"We wanted the community to know that we are trying to make this community safe," said Washington, "and we wanted people to understand that we are public servants."
CSOs—now trained, driving marked cars, and in uniform — help act as the eyes and ears of the department.
"You have to be visible to be a true deterrent for crime," Washington said.
For more information about the UTPD, its services and its programs, call (865) 974-3114 or visit www.utpolice.org.