Prepared to Respond: University Police Department Protects the Campus
With conviction, Roger Wisniewski, chief of University Police, says his department’s 30 officers are high quality. “Our officers stand shoulder to shoulder with any other agency in the area,” he said. He is also quick to compliment the department’s many partners who help protect the Buffalo State campus.
“I think that with everyone’s combined efforts, our force is at the forefront of crime prevention and response,” said Wisniewski. “You can’t measure what you prevent, but common sense dictates that being prepared promotes justice.”
To understand who supports University Police is to understand many acronyms: CERT, BERT, CIS, and UPSA.
An acronym for Community Emergency Response Team, CERT is a group of 100 individuals throughout campus who are trained to respond to emergencies. Open to all campus employees, the free training administered by the Department of Homeland Security prepares people for situations at work and in their communities. CERT volunteers constantly assess threats and develop ever-evolving responses, according to Wisniewski.
“The volunteers are very knowledgeable about the campus,” he said. “They are a tremendous resource, can mitigate crises quickly, and know things we might not think of in emergencies. I think their training not only helps our campus, but helps the CERTs in their own lives as well.”
An acronym for Building Emergency Response Team, BERT was created before CERT. But because CERT training continues to be successful and membership continues to grow, Wisniewski says that CERTs will eventually take on many of the responsibilities of BERTs. “This will be a benefit to Buffalo State, because CERTs are knowledgeable about the entire campus,” he said. “BERTs, however, will still play an integral part in the college’s Emergency Response Plan.”
University Police also works with the Critical Incident Support Team. Operated under the Counseling Center, Wisniewski says this group is particularly vital for helping to diminish traumatic effects after major incidents.
Students also help University Police keep the campus safe. About 80 volunteers are UPSAs, or University Police Student Assistants. Easily recognizable in their red shirts and hats, UPSAs look for suspicious activity, help patrol the campus, offer Safe Escort assistance, and operate Motorist Assistance Program vans. They work in areas such as residence halls, Butler Library, and the Burchfield-Penney Art Center. Wisniewski considers them a tremendous asset for high visibility, giving the department more eyes and ears.
Tools for Safety
Many tools are available to make the Buffalo State campus safe. Red phones that connect directly to University Police are available in Upton Hall and the Science Building. Wisniewski says more may be coming to the Student Union. Thirty-six outdoor “blue light” phones across campus also connect directly to University Police and help officers immediately pinpoint calling locations. In addition, University Police frequently offers training programs for self-defense and crime prevention. According to Wisniewski, faculty and staff typically report suspicious activities and people, theft, damage, criminal mischief, and parking complaints.
As part of the Emergency Response Plan, officers engage in two campuswide disaster drills each year. Last month, University Police took part in an active shooter simulation. Past drills have included disarming improvised explosive devices, negotiating a hostage crisis, and uncovering a drug lab.
The other annual disaster drill is always a staged fire in a high-rise residence hall. Wisniewski says that smoke machines provide a realistic environment. “We work with other agencies when doing these drills, which helps everyone’s educational learning,” he said. “Training with the agencies really adds credibility to our department.”
In addition, officers undergo field and in-service training. When Wisniewski became chief of University Police five years ago, he said he immediately pushed for more training and noticed benefits even three years ago. “Almost every week, at least one officer is doing training,” he said. “Officers are constantly learning new skills and sharpening old ones—everything from directing traffic to detecting substance abuse to investigating crime scenes. Training programs are a serious investment for our department’s future.”
Added Presence on Campus
This semester, University Police is designating three officers for “high-visibility patrol.” Each will take an eight-hour shift during the day and will spend a minimum of three hours on foot and/or bike. They also will devote time to ongoing problem-solving tasks to bolster campus safety.
University Police also engages in “community policing,” or working closely with surrounding neighborhood members to promote safety and security. This cooperation has resulted in many specific benefits: underage drinking prevention programs, initiatives to respond to and prevent school violence, and self-defense programs.
Wisniewski firmly believes that Buffalo State is a safe campus. “Communicate with us; share information with us,” he says to all faculty and staff. “We want to make the campus a safe environment for you to work, learn, and play in. The fear of crime can be managed.”