Public Safety to become police force
October 9, 2008
UW-River Falls Public Safety has begun the transition to change into a certified police force. With the transition, Public Safety will be changing its name to University Police and Parking.
Former chancellor Don Betz made the decision to switch to a police force after reviewing a UW System study and a State of Wisconsin Governor’s study that looked at safety across campuses and recommended all universities have licensed police officers on staff.
“Both of those reports strongly recommend that every campus have a police force,” Mary Halada, vice chancellor of administration and finance, said. “We really have to be prepared.”
The trained officers will have more power than the current public safety officers.
“The police officer has the ability to stop or detain or take action if there is something occurring, a security officer does not,” Director of Public Safety Dick Trende said. “They can take action and stop the crime for occurring.”
The other big difference is that police officers are allowed to carry firearms. Officers go through extensive and ongoing safety training, Trende said.
“This is very much in-line with both the Governor study and the UW System study,” Halada said. “But we want the campus to be safe.”
Currently Public Safety employs five full time officers to provide 24-hour coverage to the campus. Two of those are limited term employees (LTEs) that were hired while the transition to a Police Force was being worked out.
“Our primary goal is to secure the safety of the student community and the university community as a whole,” Trende said.
Once the initial switch has been made there will be two police officers supplemented by three public safety officers to provide the same 24-hour coverage that Public Safety currently offers.
“There will be some negations and changes as we recognize what our needs are in a situation to where a police officer works and where a security officer works,” Trende said. “It will be a work in progress.”
The first phase of the transition is set to begin this week with the University posting two vacancies for sworn police officers. Interviews for potential candidates will take place the week of the Oct. 27 with new officers being hired by mid November.
There is government has regulations in place that state how many training sessions must be completed by police officers each year to maintain their certification. The training covers issues such as firearm use and safety issues Halada said.
“Its Dick’s philosophy that we not only do that, but do more than that,” She said.
The two new-hires will fill vacancies left by officers that recently retired and whose positions were filled temporarily by LTE employees. The salaries of the new hires are not expected to be more than the officers they are replacing.
“The beginning police salary is higher than a security person,” Halada said. “Those officers that left had such seniority and were high enough on the pay scale that the police officer will not cost us more than the retiring security people.”
There will be some equipment cost with the purchase of items, such as firearms, radios and bulletproof vests, but it is not expected to be no more than $6,000, with some of the funds hopefully being covered by grants, Halada said.
“There is state funding for training for police offices,” Trende said. “But there is no funding for non-police officers. The standard is higher.”
A question and answer session regarding the switch to a police force will be held to in the University Center Chippewa River Room Oct. 16 at 4 p.m.