Guest Column: UAPD Maintains Commitment to Work With Dignity and Respect
The horrific events we have witnessed over the past few weeks have taken a toll on all of us and continue to divide a country that is already divided in so many ways.
I am often asked what the UA Police Department does to ensure a good community-police relationship, and the answer is that many factors contribute to a positive working partnership. Among these is our commitment to hiring top-quality personnel. We strive to hire employees who are committed to community-oriented policing. We want our personnel to be involved and engaged in our community and committed to our core values of professionalism, integrity, commitment and accountability. We train them in these values and hold ourselves to them every day. We understand that there is a "letter and spirit" of the law, and we seek to work within the spirit of the law as often as possible.
Although we train in the use of force, our greatest weapon is still our ability to communicate effectively and defuse situations without having to resort to other means. If force is necessary, I want to ensure that we have considered and used alternatives whenever possible.
UAPD has policies and procedures that are in compliance with nationally recognized standards, and we are held to these standards through outside review. Any time an officer uses force, we conduct a five-level review to ensure that the officer has acted in compliance with our policies and training. In the event that a complaint is filed against a UAPD employee, we have a comprehensive process to review and respond to that complaint.
It is important for us to be active and involved members of the community, and we make sure that our police officers and police aides are out from behind the glass and steel of their cars, to be visible and accessible on campus. I encourage them to stop and visit, throw a football or Frisbee, or kick a soccer ball with people they see on the Mall. That's part of being involved in the community.
It is important to the department and me to ensure that the community sees the whole situation when there is a police contact, instead of segments of private videos that don't capture the entire contact. That is why we have purchased body cameras for all of our officers below the rank of lieutenant, as those are the officers who are out and involved in our community on a daily basis. The cameras help protect the public, the officer and the University. Although they are not a cure-all, they do help to ensure well-documented interaction with the public.
We also maintain community engagement through our liaison programs in the residence halls and fraternity and sorority system, wherein we have officers assigned to each hall and organization to serve as a resource, confidant and friend. In addition, I hold a town hall each semester where members of the public are welcome to come and discuss current issues as well as our policies, procedures and operations. These efforts all help us to foster positive community dialogue.
I wish I could say we will never make a mistake, but we know that's not realistic. When mistakes occur, I assure you that we will admit them, fix them and move on. We will ensure that proper remedial training is conducted, if necessary, and we will take appropriate corrective and disciplinary action when warranted.
Lady Justice's blindfold represents the notion that justice should be meted out objectively, regardless of one's money, wealth, fame, power or identity, and without fear or favor, but with impartiality. The same ideal guides our conduct at UAPD. We will always treat each individual with dignity and respect.
I know people are feeling anxious and scared these days, and I share those feelings. If you are feeling anxious and need someone to listen, the UA has a number of resources available for students and employees. Campus Health's Counseling and Psychological Service is available for students, at 520-621-3334. And Life and Work Connections is available for employees, at 520-621-2493. The Dean of Students office, at 520-621-7059, is also a great resource, as are the UA cultural centers.
If you have questions about why or how we do something at UAPD, please call us at 520-621-8273, and ask to speak with a supervisor. You can contact me at 520-621-7539 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It's important for us to work together and to be true partners with our community. We need to cooperate to overcome stereotypes, labels and misconceptions. Together we can make a difference.