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.
SWAT Team Created in Response to College Shootings
The most controversial move made by Baker was his establishment of a special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team. The team of 12 officers was created in response to the high-profile shootings that have occurred on college campuses in the past decade. The first of its kind in the UNC system, UNC Charlotte PD’s SWAT team participates in training exercises two days per month where they practice breaching doors, covertly moving through buildings and using high powered rifles.
“I’ve been criticized for starting the SWAT program,” says the chief. “The problem is [the public and media] have images of Hollywood and SWAT teams. Los Angeles is one of the few cities that has a full-time SWAT team that serves high-risk warrants, goes after drug cartel members and does high-risk response. Our SWAT team is different because they don’t do all of that stuff. Our SWAT officers aren’t just SWAT, they are full-time police officers: training officers, detectives. They have a whole host of other duties.
“If a person comes onto campus, has weapons and starts shooting, I want to make sure we have the ability to respond effectively. Anytime a police department is outgunned, that’s bad. You have to make sure you can meet any threat. We all know that there are lots of assault rifles out there, and people say we shouldn’t have them. I think that’s crazy. Why would anyone say that police should only carry revolvers while society should have assault rifles? I scratch my head on that.”
Data Demonstrates Need for More Officers, Equipment
Implementing changes like these, especially ones that are controversial or require significant funding, can be difficult without buy-in from top administrators. Some just don’t understand the importance of security or the fact that campus policin
g can be even more challenging than law enforcement in municipalities. Fortunately for Baker, however, his bosses were supportive from the start.
“The support of our chancellor is tantamount to the success of safety and security on our campus,” he claims. “Chancellor Dubois has made his concern for campus safety, security and emergency management very clear.”
Baker also credits support from UNC Charlotte Associate Vice Chancellor Hank James and Vice Chancellor Beth Hardin as another reason why he has been able to move forward with his planned campus security upgrades.
Brent Herron, who is UNC system associate vice president for campus safety and emergency operations, tacks on another reason for Baker’s success: research.
“He did his homework and was able to show facts rather than just hypothetical discussions,” Herron claims. “He did a historical review of the police department staffing and took into account the fact that the campus has grown quite a bit over the past five to 10 years. He put together a well-thought-out document.”
This attention to detail and the ability to work with others, including students, has paid dividends for Baker and his officers. For example, when the “Occupy” movement was in full swing, Baker partnered with students to help organize “Occupy UNC Charlotte” so that the demonstration would remain peaceful. He has also taken on a mentoring role with several students who have faced disciplinary actions.
All of this interaction, as well as serving on interdisciplinary committees such as the safety and security committee, the behavioral intervention team and weekly housing/police/student conduct committee, helps to ensure that Baker and UNC Charlotte as a whole will be better prepared to respond to threats and adjust to the ever-changing campus public safety environment.