Temple DPS Ride-Along Program Pairs Students with Campus Police

The program is also open to non-students as Temple's Department of Public Safety seeks to hire more officers amid a national shortage.
Published: May 2, 2024

PHILADELPHIA — Earlier this year, Temple University’s Department of Public Safety (TUDPS) launched a new ride-along initiative, connecting students interested in law enforcement with Temple police to provide a firsthand understanding of the duties of a campus officer.

“It exposes our students to careers in policing and law enforcement,” Jennifer Griffin, who has been Temple’s VP of Public Safety since Aug. 2022, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It bridges the gap between students and our police officers. We really wanted to get them into the car so they could experience what a police officer sees and does every day.”

Ride-alongs are about an hour long and require students to sign a waiver and wear a police-issued vest labeled “observer.” The student is then introduced to the officer they will ride with.

Temple student Lucas Burke, who was a volunteer firefighter in high school and joined the National Guard during the pandemic, was the first person to experience a ride-along.

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“I always wanted to go into law enforcement,” Burke said. “So I thought the ride-along would give me a practical look into the routine day of what a police officer looks like.”

During the ride-along, Sergeant Elijah Lewis drove Burke through the main campus before traveling off campus but within the university’s patrol zone, which is about a one-mile radius. Lewis also parked his patrol car and showed Burke the items police officers carry in their vehicles, including a medical bag and riot helmet.

Temple Recruitment Tactics

The program is also open to non-students as TUDPS seeks to hire more officers amid a national shortage. In a 2022 survey, two-thirds of law enforcement professionals said police recruitment and retention is law enforcement’s largest issue.

TUDPS has 81 sworn officers, down 101 from last year. To attract more officers, TUDPS increased the starting salary of officers to $70,969 following a probationary period. They also receive a $2,000 signing bonus after their first year.

On average, TUCDP officers handle about one to 1.5 calls an hour across all three campuses, according to Temple Now. The department also works with the Philadelphia Police Department to prove supplemental patrols from 4 p.m. to 12 p.m.

“What this means is TUPD Police Officers are given more time to provide more community engagement,” said Griffin. “That makes working at TUDPS very unique. There is a balance between handling calls for service and having the time to deeply engage with the community.”

Temple is also in the process of developing a program for students working towards their master’s in social work to “co-respond” to calls with police when appropriate.

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