Department of the Year Award
2016 National Finalist
University of South Carolina Upstate – Department of Public Safety
It is my pleasure to nominate the University of South Carolina Upstate Department of Public Safety located in Spartanburg, South Carolina as the 2015 campus law enforcement agency of the year. Under the leadership of Chief Klay Peterson our police department has made several innovative changes and upgrades to our Incident Management Plan that have enhanced the safety of our collegiate community and substantially reduced liability to our institution.
Advances in Emergency Communications
- In February 2015 a murder-suicide took place inside a classroom at the University of South Carolina Columbia campus. Typical of many shootings, the incident was over before campus law enforcement was even notified. As a result of this tragedy, professors clamored for additional resources and support. Moreover, we recognized that they needed additional training and quickly accessible and easy to read instructions on how to respond to critical incidents to facilitate the safety of themselves and the students for whom they are responsible. University law enforcement professionals across the state struggle with this dilemma as many professors are on a “classroom island” (especially adjunct professors) and are neither trained nor prepared to respond to such incidents. One solution our department implemented (with the assistance of our IT department) was to install a desktop Classroom Emergency Procedures application on every University computer. This application provides faculty and staff quick access to bullet-pointed emergency instructions on how to respond to an active shooter situation, building evacuation, shelter-in-place order, relocation to severe weather shelter area and building and campus lockdowns. A hard copy of these instructions is also attached to the lectern of every classroom. The second phase of this project rolls out this fall which includes a direct audio link from the classroom computer to our Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). This will be achieved by utilizing a microphone on each computer and a single mouse click to activate the connection.
- We pursued and received funding to change the locks out on all classroom doors to enable locking from the inside and in so doing offer yet another layer of classroom protection to faculty and students.
These upgrades have given faculty and staff quicker access to potentially life-saving information for themselves and their students. It will also expedite law enforcement response through more timely notifications. The change in door locks will either stop or slow down unwanted intruders from entering a classroom until law enforcement arrives on scene.
- A lack of adequate financial resources has made it impossible for our police department to operate a full-time communications center with 24-7 dispatching. During office business hours dispatching services were provided by student employees who handled routine calls in an acceptable manner; however without professional training or experience they fell short in handling emergency or critical situations. After 5:00 p.m. and on weekends and holidays, incoming calls for service were routed to a duty cell phone carried by the shift supervisor. This procedure was likewise problematic for many reasons including dropped calls, missed calls, an inability to answer more than one call at a time, equipment failure and a distraction to officers having to answer a call while engaged in another activity. This results in a breach of officer safety. The situation reached critical mass when a shooting occurred across the street from campus after hours and the department was flooded with phone calls which went unanswered. As the department explored options, a series of meetings was held with 911 administrators where we negotiated inclusion into our county-wide public safety answering point. With the political support of county administrators and the Spartanburg County Chief of Police Association our agency became an active partner in the Spartanburg County 911 Communications Center on January 30, 2015. The partnership has been a resounding success.
This transition to our County 911 Communications Center has resulted in enhanced emergency communications providing effective and timely responses to campus calls for service. It also represents the missing link our department needs to proceed with CALEA certification.
Community Oriented Policing
- The Department has initiated a public relations effort dubbed “Good Will Hunting” wherein all members of the department are asked to contact at least one citizen they haven’t met every work day to build relationships within our community. Some officers are better at this than others, but it has brought tremendous positive feedback from faculty, staff and students.
- The Department of Public Safety enjoys a partnership with the Department of Sociology, Criminal Justice and Women’s Studies where criminal justice majors are given the opportunity to work as an intern in the Department of Public Safety. This is a valuable experience and a positive resume builder
- Advances in technology this past year included upgrades of in-car computers, installation of registration and drivers’ license readers in all patrol vehicles, electronic citations and field contact cards which when written are downloaded into a state-wide data base, and state-of-the-art HD in-car video and body cameras which also download into the department server when an officer arrives at the department.
- The acquisition of an aerial drone is used during large gatherings on campus to identify traffic congestion and pinch points, available parking and problems with crowd control. It is also utilized to monitor campus creeks and a large campus pond known to cause flooding during periods of heavy rain. Finally, the drone is utilized to surveil an expansive wooded area adjacent to campus where citizens are occasionally injured hiking on the Palmetto trail and nefarious activities are known to occur.
These technological advancements represent the tools of a professional law enforcement agency to more efficiently and effectively serve our campus community.
Advancements in Training
- Within the training discipline, the USC Upstate Department of Public Safety has been hard at work the past three years preparing for CALEA certification. We are currently in the self-assessment phase with two mock assessments behind us and an on-site visit scheduled for early 2016. The purchase of Power DMS to house policies and procedures, directives, standards and training has organized the documentation in an efficient manner facilitating our preparedness and assessment efforts.
- The Department has instituted an 8 hour AAA Driver’s Safety program through which all university employees and student employees who drive, rent or lease university vehicles must attend. Every three years thereafter employees and student employees must attend a 3 hour refresher course. To date almost 400 employees and students have attended the training resulting in a decrease in on the job vehicle accidents of 100% from calendar year 2014. Most recently we have begun offering these classes to dependent drivers of University employees.
- Each semester our certified instructors provide a Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) class for students who earn 1 academic credit for successfully completing the class. Twice a year a R.A.D. class is offered to the community at large.
- Due to the escalation of mass shootings and violence across the United States the department has aggressively reached out to campus constituencies to educate our stakeholders on active shooters and mitigating workplace violence. As a result, 98% of all University divisions, departments and units have received this training. Additional training has also been provided to outside agencies as well such as the National Guard, area colleges and private business. However, this is an on-going enterprise.
- In an effort to provide additional training in compliance with Title IX and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA), the Department has instituted a Personal Protection Series consisting of a salient topic offered in a lunch-and-learn format once a month. A new topic is presented each month on a wide-range of topics such as stalking, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, scams and con games, etc.
- Our crowning jewel has been the transformation of the old USC Upstate Postal Services/Receiving Bldg. to a state-of-the art campus police department. Our 4,000 square ft. facility was completely retrofitted to house the University Police Department and is now one of the finest campus law enforcement facilities in the southeast. The Public Safety facility dons a training/briefing room, tactical room for self-defense training, uniform room complete with washer and dryer, secured armory, men’s and women’s restrooms with showers and lockers for each officer, evidence room, interview and interrogation room with one way observation window, records room, break room, copy room with individual mailboxes for each employee, multi-purpose room (for weapon cleaning and service, drug testing, tools, jump kits, etc.), shift supervisor’s office, administrative offices, surveillance video viewing room, conference room, front counter reception area for walk-in customer service, and visitor parking lot. The rear “police only” parking lot is secured by fencing and electronic gate opener. Finally, the building has a diesel powered generator as an alternate power source.
The design and construction of this facility and adjoining visitor parking lot has given the Department of Public Safety a physical resource that both department personnel and citizens are very proud. It reflects the mission, values and professionalization of our department as we conduct our business and execute our mission. It has indeed increased the confidence of University Police as a professional law enforcement organization.
For these reasons and many others, I believe that the USC Upstate Department of Public Safety is most deserving to be recognized as the “Department of the Year.”