So here’s the big issue troubling police chiefs and security directors at college campuses (and local jurisdictions) throughout the country: How to do more policing with fewer resources.
Throughout the nation, campus police organizations are seeing increased demands for our services. Consider the many escalating law enforcement responsibilities, such as new and changing reporting requirements (e.g., Clery), new types of crime associated with social and other electronic media, and both heightened public awareness of crime and demands for law enforcement protection. These demands exist within an increasingly complex and disaggregated social environment, with student bodies becoming more diverse in terms of age, national origin and cultural attachments. At the same time, tax bases are decreasing and funding has become increasingly scarce. In Virginia colleges and universities, state supplements have become smaller and smaller in relation to funding from student enrollment monies.
The result is well known: less funding for campus police and security departments. As a result, training hours are cut, salary increases are deferred, equipment is kept in service longer, ammunition is more expensive and harder to acquire, and staffing levels decline. Many officers find themselves forced to work second jobs, and some leave college police agencies for larger, better funded departments. Some leave police work all together for more lucrative professions. These conditions pose significant challenges to maintaining morale and professionalism in campus law enforcement.
The bottom line is that these trends are having a negative impact upon our ability to provide the high standard of protection and service our colleges expect and deserve. Over time, these trends may even undermine officer safety.
The Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) Police Department has experienced all the challenges noted above. Since allowing the many gains from all our hard work to fall by the wayside is not an option, we have had to think creatively about mechanisms to sustain our capability while continuing to grow in our effectiveness and professionalism.
We found the answer to our problem in the outreach to police and sheriff departments and agencies in surrounding jurisdictions. Essentially, through closer collaboration with local colleagues, we leveraged other departments’ training programs and engaged in joint operations that improved the effectiveness of all agencies concerned. At the same time, increased interaction between NOVA officers and our fellow officers has allowed us to demonstrate our own professionalism and increase the esteem in which we are held. The end result of this interaction has done much to improve our own morale.
Other Agencies Train on Campus
NOVA has worked hard to identify mutually beneficial training opportunities for us and our local partners. We applied to the College’s Foundation for a grant to fund the three-day Pat McCarthy “Street Crimes” seminar. We obtained enough funding for 25 slots, and sent 15 NOVA officers. We offered the remaining 10 slots, free of charge, to local jurisdictions. Alexandria City Police and Fairfax County Police, both of which adjoin our Alexandria campus, sent representatives along with the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office, which hosts our detainees.
Officers from Prince Georges County, Md.; the U.S. Supreme Court Police; and five other jurisdictions also attended. For three days, NOVA officers interacted with our colleagues, sharing case information and patrol techniques during the presentation of the street crimes curriculum. Alexandria campus and Alexandria City officers shared BOLO information. As a result of this interaction, NOVA now receives weekly Alexandria City crime reports, and we have detained persons of interest to our neighboring jurisdiction.
One powerful aid a college can bring to another department’s training program is space to train. NOVA has allowed other jurisdictions to practice their active shooter tactics in NOVA classroom buildings. We have also allowed ATF to train their K-9s at our Loudoun campus. This initiative has several important benefits: we earn the appreciation of other departments, which makes them more inclined to support our requests for assistance; it provides familiarity with the layout of our buildings and grounds to potential responders to an active shooter or other crisis on one of our campuses; and it gives all departments concerned insights into how the other(s) operate, which will allow better operational integration in a crisis where campus officers would be augmented by local responders. In 2011, for example, we sponsored a large active shooter exercise on our Annandale campus, with participation by more than 300 local police and fire/rescue first responders form the Virginia State Police and local jurisdictions.
In February, 2013, we collaborated (for the third time) with the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Academy and the FBI to host the latter’s three-day terrorism trends training for law enforcement officers. Over 300 officers from more than 30 jurisdictions came to NOVA’s Alexandria campus for this training. During this time, new friendships were made and the college earned much praise for offering one of our theaters as the training venue. Since most colleges have similar facilities, offering facilities and grounds to local agencies for training can reap great personal and professional benefits.
Local police academies offer ample opportunities to forge productive relationships with other departments. NOVA police encourages our officers to become general and specialized instructors. Those who teach basic and in-service courses at the academies become recognized as subject matter experts. They are invited to help the departments of their class’ attendees develop and execute their training. In this role, NOVA officers are able to observe training in these departments and meet fellow officers.