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UPD looks to become 'more proactive'

Senior Reporter

Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 01:10

The University Police Department is not short-staffed, but it is continually looking to improve its efficiency to account for the growing student body.

There are almost 18,500 students at Sam Houston State University and only 23 total officers that work for the UPD.

While UPD doesn’t consider itself understaffed, it only has 20 officers that work on campus and three officers patrol SHSU’s Woodlands Center.

“[The issue] is more that we’re more reactive than proactive,” James Fitch, Deputy Chief of UPD, said.

UPD would like to be able to identify and prevent potential problems rather than conduct itself call-by-call.

“It’s hard to make sure officers don’t get burned out and that they get vacations,” Fitch said.

Despite a full workload, the officers seem to respond quickly to calls.

“As a [former] residence advisor I never had a problem with UPD responding slowly.” Crystal Thomas, senior psychology major, said. “Every time I called them they always arrived fairly quickly. They were always very cooperative and helpful.”

The small number of officers does not affect the department’s response times, according to Fitch, but it does affect the way it runs.

UPD’s budget is partially financed through the university, but the majority of its funds come from revenue earned through parking permits. The Department of Public Safety’s budget totals $1.8 million and includes both UPD and the Parking and Transportation Office.

Fitch said that UPD has looked into other possible options for funding.

”We visited the University of Central Arkansas and their police department is funded through a public safety fee,” Fitch said. “Maybe we could do something like that.”

The criminal justice program at SHSU has one of the largest faculties in the United States. Surely it would be an obvious area to recruit potential UPD officers, but it is not that prospective officers are not available, it’s that the University hasn’t expressed the need for more officers.

UPD only hires certified officers, meaning officers have to already have been through an academy and Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLEOSE) certified. The Department doesn’t have enough money to put officers through the academy.

As enrollment increases, it makes sense that more officers would be hired. As it stands, there are currently 925 students on campus per officer (given each officer is working everyday).

“If we could, we’d like to hire more officers as enrollment increases, but we have to get the University’s blessing first,” Fitch said.

The Department is currently in the process of filling their only open position.

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