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.
Stafford was able to address this issue by buying a used van from GW’s parking services department for $7,000. She then met with the university’s risk management department, which handles all of GW’s workers’ compensation claims. “I asked, ‘Can you look at who you’ve got out on workers’ comp who you are paying to sit at home because they can’t do their job and see if any of them qualify to drive for me?’” says the chief.
The risk management department loved the idea. Driving an escort van is easy and doesn’t require any heavy lifting. Certainly they could find someone who could do the job… and they did. “The first guy they found for me was a painter who fell off a ladder and was injured, but he could drive,” she says. “I worked him from Tuesday to Saturday, which were our busiest nights, from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m., which were our peak times for people calling for rides. That is how our 4-Ride program got started.”
Since its inception, this escort service has grown to an $800,000 program with 19 vans, two buses and 25 full-time employees. In 2006, the program was responsible for the transportation of more than 120,000 students.
4-Ride Service Increases Department Visibility
In addition to providing excellent customer service to GW students and decreasing their vulnerability to criminals, the 4-Ride program has increased UPD’s presence on campus. Each van is marked with the department’s logo, making UPD much more visible than before.
Also, the drivers have been trained to be the agency’s extra sets of eyes and ears. “They have radios in their vehicles so they can communicate with dispatch,” says Stafford. “They call things in constantly. We get them calling in fights, people who appear to be intoxicated. There have been countless examples of people who stopped them and say they need help. If [the drivers] can’t provide assistance, they’ll call the dispatcher and have an officer respond.”
According to the chief, “You can’t stand on a corner of our campus at night for 10 minutes without seeing a UPD person, whether he or she is a walking patrol officer, bike patrol officer, police car or a 4-Ride van.”
Community Policing Helps Improve Relationships
Another way UPD increases its p
resence on campus is through community policing — specifically through its Adopt-an-Officer program. With this initiative, each residence hall is assigned an officer. For larger dormitories, more than one officer may be assigned. They are allotted a certain amount of time from their work schedule to walk the halls and talk with GW students.
This program increases student/officer personal interaction, allowing students to get to know officers as people. “Students are going to, in many cases, feel negatively about us, whether it’s because they were a victim of a crime and they blame us or there was a behavioral issue and we were dealing with the student and that issue,” says the chief. “I’m looking at this as balancing the scale and trying to find ways for us to have contacts with students that are positive.”
Additionally, this program builds trust among students so they will report problems. “We have had instances where people have told their adopted officer who they’ve gotten to know,” she adds. “It might be a week later, but they say, ‘Hey, I came in the door, and it was unlocked. It felt like it was broken.’ It could be as simple as that. There is no way any department can police their community alone.” The Adopt-an-Officer program is one way UPD engages the GW community to be part of the solution.
UPD’s Office Watch program is another way of communicating with campus constituents, only with this initiative it is with faculty and employees. Just recently, a professor reported a suspicious person to the university’s dispatcher. Based on the professor’s description, UPD was able to track down the suspect who the department believes was going from building to building in an attempt to steal from open offices.
Other initiatives include the agency’s bike patrol program, which now has 35 members; a bicycle registration program and RAD self-defense classes.
CALEA Accreditation Improves Officer Morale and Caliber
Stafford has also used the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) accreditation process to transform her agency.
In March 2006, UPD was accredited, joining the less than 1 percent of campus police departments that have received this type of recognition. The demanding five-phase process began in 2001, and Stafford was intimately involved in the development of her agency’s CALEA-compliant policies and procedures. She also had to create the systems that prove UPD’s compliance with the 450 standards set by the commission.
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