Wanted: 2 more police officers

Ultimately, the “U” police want to add 10 more officers before the new football stadium opens.

Andy Steinke

The University Police Department is looking for a few good men.

Well, two new patrol officers, anyway. The department will begin accepting applications today to fill the two positions in the department.

The department wants to add 10 officers by the time TCF Bank Stadium opens in fall 2009, because more people will be on campus regularly, University Police Chief Greg Hestness said.

Deputy Police Chief Steve Johnson said the department currently has enough funding for five more people, which would bring the total number of officers to 50.

However, the department only wants to hire two new officers now because “it’s a pretty involved training,” he said, for both new and veteran officers.

Johnson said the department has had as many as 70 officers and as few as 35 officers in the past. Some of the best officers were formerly University security monitors, he said.

When the department hired six months ago, 162 people applied for two positions, Hestness said.

Johnson said after the application period ends Dec. 7, University police personnel will interview qualified applicants.

Before the two chosen can be offered jobs, they must pass a background check, as well as psychological and physical exams.

“It’s (more) than a half-day for the psychological test alone,” Johnson said.

Applicants must also be licensed by the state, which 2nd Precinct Cmdr. Robert Skomra said requires an associate degree in criminal justice and a 16-week skills training.

After being hired, officers can’t start patrolling campus immediately. They must go through a two- to three-week orientation period, during which they tour the University police building, meet other officers and learn the computer systems.

Then, they start a four-phase, 14-week in-field training during which they get to know the campus and learn department procedures.

In the final phase, a veteran officer shadows the new officers for 80 hours each to see if they can handle the job without help, Johnson said.

The whole training process takes at least 16 weeks after the new officers are initially hired.

“When we’re hiring an officer, we are looking for someone for the long haul,” Johnson said.

While University police only hire periodically, Minneapolis police, who patrol the area surrounding campus, are always in the process of hiring, Skomra said.

He said Minneapolis police are always in some part of the hiring process because the department is so large.

Skomra has 77 officers at his disposal, some of whom patrol near campus.

He acknowledged that his precinct couldn’t patrol the entire campus without the help of University police, but also said if there wasn’t a university in the precinct, there wouldn’t be as much crime in the area.

The stadium, he said, will only add to the need for more officers on and around campus, especially if more businesses are built around the stadium.

He said he’s not sure if 55 officers will be enough to adequately patrol campus, which means Minneapolis police will have to help out.

“At the time Memorial Stadium went into effect until the late 1960s that forced us to cancel all of our days off on game days,” he said. “The way the 2nd Precinct is staffed right now, we couldn’t handle that.”