Spotlight on the CS Director of the Year: Accessibility Leads to Success
Because of his enthusiastic participation in campus life and hard work, University of North Carolina at Charlotte Police Chief Jeff Baker has been able to garner support for the expansion of his agency’s jurisdiction, as well as acquire more resources, decrease crime, develop community and administration buy-in, and adopt innovative Clery compliance practices in only two years. All this and more is why Baker has been named this year’s Director of the Year.
Many individuals who retire from traditional law enforcement and try to transition to a campus police chief position have a tough time. Some think of university public safety as an easy paycheck to supplement their retirement. They might also make the mistake of applying more hardline, traditional policing tactics to their campus community, which usually backfire.
Not so for this year’s Campus Safety Director of the Year, Jeff Baker. Once he transitioned from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to chief of police at University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte), he knew he had his work cut out for him. He was also well aware that he had to get out among students, administrators, faculty and staff to truly become a part of the community he was protecting.
“When you become a chief, you have to love what you do, and you have to love the university,” he says. “Your people have to know you care about them. You have to make sure you are accessible and paying attention. You have to collaborate with all of your key players on campus, and it has to be continuous. That’s the way you build rapport with administration.”
Department Now Respected on Campus
Those efforts have paid off handsomely. Where there once was a department with low morale, little respect by the campus community and a high officer turnover rate, there now is respect and happier employees, claims UNC Charlotte Interim Dean of Students Christine Davis.
“His collaborative spirit has really helped bring our police department up from a low level type of security force,” she says. “[The campus police department] has always been a police force, but I think the perception prior to Chief Baker taking on his role was that it was more of a security force. He has brought the technology, staffing and visibility of the UNC Charlotte PD to the forefront, so they are seen as a viable resource.”
Davis points out that Baker is not afraid to address crime issues directly with students.
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“This week we had a student who was drunk and disruptive in a classroom and had to be removed by police officers,” explains Davis. “Jeff went in yesterday and spoke with the class to assure them of their safety, police response protocol and to provide them with a direct connection to campus public safety if they ever have concerns or questions.”
It’s not just Baker himself, however, who does this type of outreach. Through the implementation of his Community Oriented Policing (COP) plan, the chief made his department’s police officers more visible throughout campus. In fact, Baker created a full-time position specifically for community policing to engage the community and spread the department’s message about being safe on campus and reporting suspicious activity. The COP officer makes personal appearances at freshman and new employee orientations, residence life meetings and other events.
Additionally, Baker successfully lobbied for other types of officers, including a Clery compliance officer. The focus of patrols was also changed, so now more are done on foot and bikes. He purchased all-terrain vehicles so officers could patrol the greenways and unpaved walking trails on campus. The department’s criminal investigation division was expanded, resulting in the solving of a number of cases.
The department has also begun to monitor crime trends through the use of CompStat, which holds supervisors accountable for crime trends in the community. Additionally, student conduct software has been adopted so the school can better track when a student is involved in an incident. Now, when there is student misconduct, reports of the situation are routed to the dean, police department, residence life, counseling and other appropriate on-campus stakeholders.
All of these efforts helped to reduce the crime rate on campus by more than 35% in only one year.
Expanded Jurisdiction Includes Student Apartments
In addition to developing relationships with on-campus stakeholders, such as administrators and student government representatives, it is critical for campus police and security departments to develop healthy partnerships with external stakeholders, such as local police, EMS and fire departments. Baker understood this and leveraged the relationships he developed when he was an employee with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) to open the lines of communication with this agency. Now, UNC Charlotte PD is actively involved in CMPD’s university division quarterly leadership meetings. CMPD also now either notifies or seeks assistance from Baker’s department when they are dealing with a university student. UNC Charlotte PD also works with state level agencies on seatbelt and alcohol enforcement initiatives.
Baker’s good relationships with CMPD enabled him to negotiate a new extended jurisdiction that nearly doubled UNC Charlotte PD’s area of patrol and encompassed the majority of apartment complexes that house UNC Charlotte students.
“The extended jurisdiction allows for a more collaborative approach to solving problems that involve our students and issues of misconduct,” says Baker. “We saw success in a neighborhood located directly across from the university that had experienced years of issues related to parking. We partnered with CMPD, Charlotte DOT and the College Downs neighborhood in an effort to resolve the parking issues, and the issues have been resolved.”