Ms. Stafford Goes to Washington

Congratulations to The George Washington University Chief of Police Dolores Stafford, winner of the first annual Campus Safety Director of the Year/Education award. CALEA accreditation, an increased department presence on campus, and a decrease in crime are just some of her accomplishments. Read on to see how she made it to the top.

Right in the heart of our nation’s capitol is The George Washington University (GW), which is only a few blocks from the White House, State Department and International Monetary Fund (IMF) bank. Its location gives students, faculty, employees and visitors an opportunity that practically no other university in America can provide — the chance to live, study and work right next to the historical landmarks that house our nation’s top decision makers. Being in the presence of this kind of power and legacy is undoubtedly an exciting and rewarding experience.

But it also means GW is in close proximity to high-value terrorist targets. When combined with the fact that GW is in a densely populated urban area, it is understandable that school officials would place a great amount of focus and importance on security and safety. Additionally, because the university regularly hosts national and international dignitaries — former President Bill Clinton and former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev both spoke on campus recently — the University Police Department (UPD) must be on its toes at all times. UPD’s Chief Dolores Stafford must be no less diligent so her agency can meet these challenges head-on.

In her 15 years at GW, Stafford has succeeded in transforming her department’s personnel, mission and level of service. From accreditation to recruitment, escort services to smart fiscal management, these and other initiatives have led to a decrease in crime, improved detection of behavioral incidents, as well as increased community participation in UPD’s safety and security efforts.

Because of these and other less tangible yet very impressive achievements, Chief Stafford has been chosen to receive the first ever Campus Safety Director of the Year/Education award.

Smart Budgeting Keeps UPD in the Black

Practically every campus police or security department struggles at one time or another with finding the funds it needs to effectively operate, and GW’s UPD is no different. Stafford’s fiscal acumen, however, has enabled her department to overcome these challenges and thrive. According to Robert Chernak, GW’s senior vice president, “She’s able to leverage resources in a way that maximizes the utility of her department.”

One example of the chief’s expertise in this area is her creative reallocation of resources and deployment of personnel. Previously, her entire department consisted of police officers. That meant some were doing security work (monitoring GW’s cameras, access control systems and the like), despite the fact that often they didn’t want to perform these types of tasks.

To use her department’s resources more efficiently, Stafford created a new category of officer, which the department calls a Master Patrol Officer (MPO), to train new recruits. Then through attrition in a 16-month period, she took eight positions from each shift and created permanent security officer jobs, which are paid less than police positions.

By employing security officers, the chief was able to apply the money she saved toward hiring even more MPOs. She also created a tactical shift to provide more staffing and more experienced officers during the peak period of calls for service (from 5 p.m. to 4 a.m.). MPOs are now required to work the tactical shift for five weeks on a rotating basis.

As a result of these changes, UPD has three to four well-trained and motivated MPOs to work the most challenging shift. Also, now UPD sworn officers aren’t required to do as much security work as before. Instead, the department can recruit specifically for those duties.

Before she made these changes, however, Stafford discussed the plan with her employees, who are unionized. “I had the buy-in of the staff,” she adds. “We felt good about the benefits we were going to get — not only the changes in structure, but we were able to hire six more people [MPOs] because I had freed-up the money.”

As a result of the changes, UPD has more staff during its peak period. This has lead to improved incident response times. Additionally, the campus has seen a decrease in the number of incidents. Robberies, for example dropped from an average of 10 to 12 per year (prior to 2004) to an average of three to five per year. The statistics for aggravated assaults experienced a similar decrease: from an average of 12 to 14 per year prior to 2004 to an average of five to seven per year.

The identification of certain behavioral incidents has increased dramatically. The number of noise violations, for example, in 2003 was 272. By contrast, the average in 2005 and 2006 was 702. The number of vandalism incidents reported by officers increased as well, nearly doubling from 169 in 2003 to an average of 303 in 2005 and 2006.

Escort Program Transports 120,000 Students

Probably the best example of Stafford’s creative use of resources, however, is GW’s 4-Ride program, which is the school’s escort service that was started in 1994.

Prior to its inception, officers would be pulled from their other assignments to assist students who didn’t feel safe walking on campus at night. This posed a problem because there weren’t enough officers to handle the requests effectively — often there were delays. “Sometimes it would take them 30 to 40 minutes to get there if they were involved in an incident and we didn’t have anyone to send,” says the chief.

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About the Author

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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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