Skip to main content

CALEA Update Magazine | Issue 99

University Policing—The Experiences of Three CALEA Accredited Agencies

Printer-friendly version

Many of today’s college and university campuses rival the population of small and mid-size cities, but all campuses, regardless of size, are susceptible to the same law enforcement challenges faced by a municipal police department. The world was made shockingly aware of this on April 16, 2007, when one lone psychologically disturbed student killed 32 and seriously wounded 23 others on the campus of Virginia Tech before taking his own life in what remains the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in United States history. 

There is no denying the impact that event has had on educational campuses every where.

In the same way as 9/11 symbolizes to many the day the “world as we know it” changed, this tragedy symbolizes the day when the reality of “if it can there, it can happen here” hit all campuses. 

It does not take very many parents or students asking “What security steps are in place, if this was to happen on our campus?” to grab the attention of university officials. One avenue available to these institutions is to review and assess the professionalism of their campus police departments. This is where CALEA surfaces as a benchmark for international best practices for law enforcement with its three credentialing options: Law Enforcement Accreditation, CALEA® Recognition, and Recognition Through Alliance. One advantage of discussing standards with educational institutions is they understand the value of and necessity for accreditation. They all work very hard to maintain their institution’s accredited status because they understand the consequences of losing it. 

Currently, all but three of the 47 university police departments with a CALEA Award are Law Enforcement Accredited, the others being Recognized, and another 28 are enrolled in self-assessment. These agencies are scattered across the United States (Yes, so far there have not been any from outside the U.S.) at institutions such as the University of New Hampshire, to the University of Washington, and from Iowa State to the University of Texas at Austin. Awarded agencies range in size from 19 (Jacksonville State University) to 276 (University of Texas at Houston), and from urban locations such as the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown, to much less “congested” settings. What they have in common is their commitment to maintaining compliance with internationally accepted law enforcement standards and their symbol of having achieved this level of professionalism—a CALEA Award. 

The following comments by the CEOs of three accredited university police departments focus on their experiences in CALEA, and carry a remarkably similar message—it has been good for their agencies! 

 

California State University Fullerton Police Department  Chief Judi King

California State University Los Angeles Police Department  Chief Greg King

 

We started our careers in law enforcement at a municipal police department in Virginia in the 1970s and began working with CALEA in the 1980s. Through our work as CALEA Assessors and Team Leaders, we had the opportunity to visit many varied law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and Canada. One form of policing that intrigued us was university policing. 

As is the case with most municipal officers, we were of the belief that university police departments did not do real police work. Our visits quickly proved us wrong. We learned that university police departments are truly organizations dedicated to professionalism. Their officers were some of the most highly trained and devoted people in policing who possessed unique skill sets to be able to perform law enforcement duties on a university campus. These organizations and people were just striving for recognition that they were professional policing agencies. 

When we made the decision to move to California, we intentionally sought out positions at university police departments for that reason. We wanted to do what we could to assist in this area. As we performed on-sites with assessors from agencies outside of university policing, we realized that the exposure gave them an opportunity to see for themselves the quality of these agencies. This experience also furthered the cause of advancing the word about the quality of work that was being done by every CALEA Accredited university police department. 

The concept of university policing is relatively new in the history of policing overall. Most university police departments were established in the 1960s and 1970s when student unrest caused university administrators and state legislators to realize that the need for better safety on campus called for a move away from campus security guards to armed police officers. University police departments by definition face unique challenges because their officers must balance the need to ensure the safety of those on campus, while not infringing on the educational mission of the university.

 

Since their inception, campus police departments have struggled to be accepted as peer institutions with their municipal and county counterparts. University officers receive the same, if not more, training as their fellow officers; however, because they patrol a campus rather than the city streets they are often tagged with the stigma of being glorified security guards. One method that can be used to help validate the professionalism of university police is for that department to voluntarily undertake the task of attaining CALEA Accreditation. 

Accreditation and university policing is a perfect match. Universities have embraced the processes and attributes involved in accreditation programs for years. Academia has long recognized that certification through accrediting organizations provides the institutionalization of program review, proof of excellence, and the standardization of professionalism. 

The CALEA Law Enforcement Accreditation Program comfortably fits within the academic world. University leaders do not require an explanation of the principles of accreditation because they already understand the value of the journey. The accreditation program is not limited just to the educational side. Campus health centers, affiliated hospitals, and vocational programs often are accredited independently to ensure rigorous adherence to professional standards. 

In 2001, California State University Fullerton and California State University Los Angeles became the first two university police departments in the 24 campus system to be accredited. We chose to pursue accredited status because we wanted to have an independent body certify the quality of our agencies. 

By complying with CALEA standards, we accomplished a paradigm shift from basic policing to professional law enforcement. All the normal enhancements that many other agencies have experienced occurred, including a more complete written directive system, enhanced equipment, better evidence and property control, and improved building conditions. 

Another impact of the process was in the recruitment of new personnel and the validation of professionalism. With both campuses being close to Los Angeles and surrounded by multiple jurisdictions, the recruitment of quality personnel is a competitive venture. In the past we have been know primarily as a training ground for officers who wanted to make their selves more marketable for other police departments. Recently more and more applicants state they apply to our agency after learning that we are accredited because they want to work for a professional agency. Our retention rate for officers has also improved because our officers are proud to work for us and once they start, the majority of them decide to stay.   

At the same time, regional agencies have recognized us as professional and proven police organizations because of our accredited status. They have watched us transform over the last few years and now see us as a resource. It is this growth of professional and public confidence in our people and the services we provide that has pushed us to the front of the class. 

CALEA is a pathway to proving our professionalism and is in perfect harmony with the academic world that recognizes the importance of accreditation. 

The University of Washington Police Department
Interim Chief Ray Wittmier

The University of Washington is located in Seattle, and its police department employs 55 commissioned personnel and 26 non-commissioned staff, serving an urban campus community of nearly 65,000. The University of Washington Police Department was one of the first law enforcement agencies in the state to receive state accreditation in the 1980s. After many years of successful state accreditation, the departmental administration chose to embark on a higher challenge and obtain national accreditation. In 2003 the department began the CALEA Law Enforcement Accreditation process: policies were reviewed and rewritten; additional trainings were conducted; and the entire staff was educated on what CALEA meant to the organization. At the July 2005 CALEA Conference, the University of Washington Police Department was awarded CALEA Law Enforcement Accreditation. 

UWPD was barely through celebrating this achievement when we began thinking about re-accreditation. In August 2005, Officer Shawna Woodard was appointed to the position of accreditation manager, and she conducted the transition from 4th to 5th Edition CALEA Standards, which required a significant amount of restructuring of policies and procedures. In a department of our size, accreditation is only one of the major responsibilities handled by the accreditation manager; she also is responsible for hiring, recruiting, and coordinating all aspects of training. With her diligence and skill as an accreditation manager, Officer Woodard successfully guided the department through the next three years of maintaining compliance with standards, and we were reaccredited in July 2008. 

While on the journey to CALEA Accreditation, we recognized that there was significant value in collaborating with other CALEA agencies in our region. We joined the active, well organized Northwest PAC, which includes law enforcement agencies in Washington and Oregon. This has proven to be a successful, extremely helpful arrangement, particularly when it comes to developing policies and procedures. The networking opportunities provided by PAC membership have also given us benefits besides those pertaining to CALEA, such as being included in other training events. 

Because striving to be in compliance with CALEA Standards forced us to make needed changes to outdated policies, we quickly realized the benefits. Some of the improvements included the implementation of an “Early Warning System” to identify and address concerns regarding the behavior of personnel. We also revamped our performance appraisal system to ensure both positive and negative actions of all employees were documented in a timely manner. Mandatory trainings have been more closely scrutinized, resulting in a higher level of accountability. In general, we found that the CALEA Standards helped us to be more consistent in how we operated. 

Another improvement dealt with the internal investigation and citizen complaints policy. The new policy clearly spells out the department’s expectations of personnel. We have found that officers are more accepting of policies when they understand they are based on internationally accepted standards. It is also helpful to be able to provide examples of how other local CALEA Accredited agencies have similar policies. 

After the tragedy at Virginia Tech in April 2007, we once again reviewed our policies and response plans to ensure that we were prepared for such an event. During the Colorado Springs CALEA Conference in November 2007, we attended a presentation by Chief Kimberley Crannis of the Blacksburg (VA) Police Department, regarding their department’s experience in responding to the Virginia Tech incident. This provided us with additional insight into what we needed to accomplish in the way of preparation for such an event if it were to occur on our campus. 

We have since developed a crisis communication plan; instituted a violence prevention assessment team to review safety concerns; installed an outdoor alert system and a text messaging system; trained every officer in the department in active shooter response; had an active shooter table top exercise involving local police agencies and university stake holders; and had a live drill with simulations using one of the large lecture hall buildings on our campus. The police department’s administration was invited to appear before the University of Washington Board of Regents to answer questions regarding our ability to respond to an active shooter event. The Regents were very impressed that drills had occurred and procedures were in place, along with mutual aid agreements as required through CALEA Standards. 

Being CALEA Accredited has also provided us with recruiting benefits. Several officer applicants have noted that they were impressed when they saw the CALEA emblem on our website denoting we were “CALEA.”  We make a point of letting our incoming students know that we are internationally accredited, as well as informing the nearly 4,000 parents of new students each summer during orientations. This helps to assure uneasy parents that their students are in the hands of a professional police organization when they move to campus. 

Finally, CALEA Accreditation has provided us with a positive status in the law enforcement community both within the state of Washington and nationally. We enjoy additional respect and inclusion in the law enforcement community because of accreditation. 

Share this