UF Sworn Officers Another Level of Protection… and Support
To William Spraw, UF’s chief of police, his department’s image is more than a new cruiser and uniforms. Spraw, who started as head of UF’s hybrid police/security department on June 1, 2016, wants his officers to be seen, above all, as a source of support and protection.
“We weren’t established to write citations,” said Spraw. “We’re here to support our students, faculty and staff. We want to assist students with any problems they may have.”
Matt Bruskotter, assistant dean of campus safety and emergency management, reiterated Spraw’s comments. The two are working together to write policies and procedures needed to launch a department that now employs three sworn police officers as well as security personnel.
According to a June 30, 2015 article posted on Time Magazine’s website, in 2004, 68 percent of four-year universities used armed officers. By 2011, that number had grown to 75 percent. UF’s Student Affairs Board of Trustees Committee began looking at developing a hybrid department comprised of both armed officers and unarmed security personnel nearly three years ago. Student organizations supported the idea.
“There are definite advantages to having sworn police officers on campus,” added Spraw. “It’s another level of protection for our students and employees and will enable faster response time if a weapon is needed.”
The University added three police officers for this initial year of a hybrid department. All are former UF security personnel who met qualifications and completed Ohio Peace Officers Training. Within the next two years, Spraw and Bruskotter hope to expand to 8-10 sworn officers.
Not a Revenue Producer
UF’s Department of Campus Safety and Emergency Management is not intended to produce revenue. There are no quotas when it comes to parking citations and anyone arrested will be taken to the Hancock County Jail, which will collect any fines and fees. Spraw feels that this is just one more reason to see campus police officers as a resource and not as a source of intimidation. The department will continue to provide lock out and jump starting services, as well as escort services and self-defense classes for students, faculty and staff.
The new department will have jurisdiction over all UF-owned properties, including the farms. Officers will patrol where needed, based on manpower.
In addition to armed officers, UF has undertaken several other steps to increase campus security and student safety. “Blue” phones are installed at several locations on campus and at the farms. Anyone seeking help can pick up a phone and immediately be connected to security personnel. The phones can also be used as a public address system for all-campus warnings and notifications. There are also more than 500 security cameras mounted in various locations throughout campus.
Use Your “Spidey” Sense
What can students do to be safer during their time at UF?
“Just be aware and know what’s going on around you,” added Bruskotter. “Texting and listening to music are great, but not when they distract you from a potentially dangerous situation.”
“They just need to use their ‘Spidey sense,’” laughed Spraw.
Students at UF would be more likely to encounter theft than a violent crime while on campus. Spraw reminds them to lock their cars and dorm rooms, “even if they’re only going to be gone a few minutes.”
Bruskotter and Spraw both said that they would never discourage a student from calling their department when they see something wrong or “feel wronged.” Security personnel will get a student connected with the right person or department to handle a specific problem. Dispatchers are also campus operators and familiar with just about every department and office at UF.
Spraw and his team are working hard to foster good relations with students. Officers and security personnel will be present at “Move In Day,” at new student orientation and at the One Stop Shop. He is also investigating social media as another means of communication.
Looking at being off to a very positive start, the Office of Campus Safety and Emergency Management’s hybrid department is now one of more than 4,000 similar departments at public and private colleges across the country.