U Police still understaffed despite new hires

by Benjamin

The University Police Department swore in five new patrol officers January 10, increasing the total number of officers on the police force to 38.
Even with the addition of the officers, however, the department is still short-staffed, according to the goals outlined in a five-year strategic plan approved last year.
“The department is doing the best (it) can. It has been a lot of work for the officers,” said Lt. Richard Giese.
The new officers are Jamie Bryant, Justin Jackson, Matthew Karnes, Brent Petersen and Samuel Schooler.
The Strategic Community Policing Plan includes increasing the number of officers to 50 by the year 2005.
“We need to be more interactive with the community, we need to solve more crimes and we need to have a greater all-around presence,” said Chief George Aylward.
According to statistics from the Campus Health and Safety department, the force has been understaffed since 1993.
One reason, said Captain Steve Johnson, was officers’ dissatisfaction with the administration in the latter part of the 1980s.
“I think there was a time that people weren’t happy with the department and left,” Johnson said.
Another reason for the staff depletion, he added, was the number of retiring officers exceeded the number of new recruits in 1997 and 1998.
Since joining the University Police Department nearly 18 months ago, Aylward has hired 13 new officers. He is currently reviewing 12 more applicants in order to bring the department to its budgeted number of 43 officers by this summer.
Aylward said because of the large student population on campus, the University requires more officers than are available.
“We’re finally bringing our numbers up so we can do some more creative things,” Johnson said, referring to the new recruits.
The department has no foot patrol and runs only a sporadic bike patrol.
With a larger force, Johnson said, the call response time would decrease and there would be more time for crime investigation, paperwork and public interaction.
“We can have a lot more connection with the community,” he said.
Department officials also hope to eventually add a canine unit and horse patrol.
About 90 people attended the ceremony in the Biomedical Engineering building where Aylward and officers’ family members pinned police badges on the five new officers who were selected out of 106 applicants.
Matthew Karnes, who graduated from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, said he is looking forward to working on the University police force.
“This is the one department in Minnesota that I wanted to join,” he said.

Benjamin Sandell welcomes comments at [email protected]