University police will add two new community engagement officers in 2017

UMPD plans to add two new officers for community engagement.

New University of Minnesota Police Department chief Matt Clark poses in the Transportation and Safety Building on Monday. Clark, who has served on the Minneapolis Police Department for more than two decades, will now lead the 50 members of the UMPD as well as the University's Public Safety Communications Center.

Daily File Photo

New University of Minnesota Police Department chief Matt Clark poses in the Transportation and Safety Building on Monday. Clark, who has served on the Minneapolis Police Department for more than two decades, will now lead the 50 members of the UMPD as well as the University's Public Safety Communications Center.

Mike Hendrickson

As they look toward a new year of department changes, University of Minnesota police officials are relying on lessons they’ve learned in 2016.

Community engagement, training and special events at TCF Bank Stadium are the main agenda items for the department in 2017.

UMPD Chief Matt Clark said fast police responses are always a top priority, but this year the department will concentrate on security for events at TCF Bank Stadium.

Clark said there will be 28 events at the stadium this year — an increase from last year due to Minnesota’s new Major League Soccer team, which is slated to play 17 games at the venue for their inaugural season.

“We’re ready and actively making sure those special events are run well,” Clark said. “Whether there’s issues with fan behavior, traffic control, general operations.”

The UMPD will have to prepare differently for the soccer games than for Gopher football games, Interim Vice President of University Services Mike Berthelsen said.

Football games pull in around 50,000 fans, while Berthelsen said he expects around 20,000 at the soccer games.

Fans won’t be allowed to tailgate at soccer games, he said.

“The size and scale of traffic management is different, so it doesn’t have the same overall impact,” Berthelsen said

In 2017, the department will continue camera upgrade efforts around campus to help with safety.

“We upgraded a bunch of cameras to digital on places like the Washington Avenue Bridge and that’s made a difference,” Berthelsen said.

In addition, the department is currently in the process of standardizing lighting on campus with University Energy Management.

The two groups made a map matching each light to its owner to streamline repairs, Berthelsen said.

Last year was Clark’s first full calendar year as chief, and he pointed to improved community engagement as one of his achievements in that time.

Over 2016, the UMPD was more active on Twitter, and hosted community events like a Nerf-based capture the flag game held between officers and students.

In 2017, Clark said the department plans to add two new officers whose responsibility will be to walk around campus and engage directly with students and staff Monday through Friday during the semester.

Once a month, the two officers will host a morning coffee on campus event, as well as attend local neighborhood meetings.

“They’ll try to engage with students, faculty and staff,” Clark said. “They’ll also work with key community people … to put the word out about them as beat officers and making sure they’re engaging with folks.”

Berthelsen said another area of success for UMPD in 2016 was its coordination with the Minneapolis Police Department.

There were more protests on campus in 2016 than previous years, which led more coordination between departments.

“I think this last fall and heading into [2017], that continues to be a higher priority,” Berthelsen said. “The integration of planning and cooperation between everybody’s department to make sure the campus is safe, but also that those that are protesting are safe as well.”

In the long term, Berthelsen said he hopes UMPD will upgrade security in skyways and Gopher Way tunnels, but there are now no concrete plans.