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Making Campuses Safe

Detectie Tom Bacigalupi, GMU PD

DeCollege and University Police and Investigators Conference

As a law enforcement officer you should know the importance of the varying degrees of training. Law enforcement officers can select areas of training that they may be interested in or select training that fits their environment or the job role they are currently in. I have attended many training classes both at our local police academy and at other jurisdictions. I also attend several workshops, conferences, and summits across the country throughout the year.

However, I find that most of the training I have attended is always geared towards local, county, government, or state agencies. I found it very difficult to pinpoint training for higher education law enforcement officers. The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) holds an annual conference for security and law enforcement officers working in public schools. Topics covered at this conference are geared towards crimes and other related problems police and security professionals face in public schools. Most attendees are law enforcement officers from local police departments assigned to work in the school systems. The International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) is an annual conference held for higher educational public safety directors and police chiefs of higher educational institutions. Topics covered are aimed at what safety managers and police directors face on campus.

The difference between traditional communities and a campus community differs greatly. A local police department deals with the same residents daily year after year. In a campus community the residents change every 4 years. Additionally, many students will transfer after their first year. This makes it difficult to build a community policing style atmosphere that allows officers to get to know the residents.

Seeing the need for the same type of training and problem solving for higher educational institutions on the mid-level, I put a proposal together and submitted it to the command staff of the George Mason University Police Department. With support from Chief Michael Lynch, who also saw the need for training geared towards street officers and investigators, the College and University Police and Investigators Conference (CUPIC) was created from scratch.

The first annual conference was held at our Prince William Campus in Manassas, Virginia, for three days in August 2006. For a first time event CUPIC was very successful. 300 attendees from over 100 different agencies throughout the country attended. With a joint effort from other colleges and universities nationwide, CUPIC was able to offer a variety of classes of instruction to include computer crimes, sexual assaults, narcotic investigations, school violence, managing large events, pedestrian safety, crime fighting, alcohol enforcement, leadership, internet crimes against children (ICAC), pedestrian safety, incident command systems, and dignitary protection.

The opening ceremonies were shared by Steven Healy, the president of IACLEA, and Catherine Bath, the executive director for Security On Campus (SOC).

Catherine Bath spoke about substance abuse, campus violence and related crimes, and what SOC’s future plans are to make sure higher educational institutions are in compliance with the new federal Clery Act guidelines through the Department of Education.

IACLEA president Steve Healy’s opening speech discussed the four pillars of campus public safety:

  1. Maintaining strong relationships with the community
  2. Effectively managing physical security environment on campus
  3. Leading emergency preparedness and response activities
  4. Providing best-in-class policing to the campus

Some of the highlighted presentations were from Lt. Detective Steve Finney of The University of Texas at Dallas Police. Lt. Finney provided insight into dealing with narcotics on the university level, and how to use resources available to the higher education community to combat narcotics on campus. He also discussed current and new narcotic trends found on campuses across the country and community policing style investigating, such as knock and talks, to gather intelligence. His unique classroom style was taught in two parts: investigative techniques and administrative, logistical and legal considerations.

Officer Randy Hoffman from the Penn State Police gave a great presentation on the events that unfolded when a sniper opened fire on their campus in 1996, killing one student and injuring others. He discussed the theory of “it can happen at your campus” and the final impact on the campus community and their police department.

Detective Sgt. Jon McAchern, of the Virginia Commonwealth University Police, discussed the need to plan for dignitary visits, not only to protect the dignitaries but to maintain the right of free speech of those attending the events.

There were several other great presenters from Georgia State, Iowa State, Department of Defense, FBI, Secret Service, and many other local county and local police departments that deal with higher education institutions within their jurisdiction.

Repetitive topics were taught by presenters from different agencies, giving different perspectives and insights based on their unique experiences. Some attendees found that one program would not work in their environment but still obtained new ideas that could fit into their campus community.

Because of last year’s great success, this year we have made extra room for attendees and added an extra day of training. We are encouraging anyone from a higher education institute to submit a call for presentations to share their program or experienced training with the college/university community. Keynote speakers lined up for CUPIC 2007 include John Marshall, the Secretary of Virginia Department of Public Safety, and Tom Morris, Senior Correspondent from Americas Most Wanted. We are also working on obtaining several other keynotes and presenters and will have the most recent update information on our website at http://cupic.gmu.edu

A listserv has also been developed for police and security officers to alert and share case information with the over 700 worldwide members. It has already helped in several cases of criminals preying on the campus community. Information on how to join the listserv can be obtained from the CUPIC website.

The George Mason University Police Department offers this training free of charge to attendees. We all know that some smaller higher education institution law enforcement departments have limited budgets, and it is hard for them to find affordable training. George Mason Police Department has now made affordable training available for mid-level college and university police and security officials. With a joint effort in participation from other campus law enforcement CUPIC may change the way other departments conduct their daily operations, and help us all become a unified front against crime on campuses across the country.

I’d like to thank all of last year’s presenters and this years presenters for donating their time and effort into making CUPIC successful. Without everyone’s participation, input, and volunteering time, CUPIC would not be such a success!

This year’s CUPIC conference will be held at GMU’s main campus in Fairfax, Virginia, from August 6 – 9, 2007. Please visit http://cupic.gmu.edu to register or to learn more.

Detective Tom Bacigalupi, George Mason University Police


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