By Justin Rodriguez
Since Ronald Davidson began his position as the university’s police chief in May 2013, he’s made it a priority to assist the department with numerous improvements to increase safety for students, faculty and staff.
“I don’t want people to be afraid to come to the police,” Davidson said.
In an Oct. 21 interview with Davidson, he outlined 42 new policies and over 70 training orders he’s in the process of implementing this year, following his previous post as assistant chief of police at the University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA).
One new program, called “Safety Begins With You,” targets crime prevention and student safety on and off campus.
The program is open to all students and runs noon to 1 p.m. Oct. 30 and 31 in Room 224 of Senator Frank L. Madla building, and covers topics regarding home, auto and personal safety, dating and domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, as well as bystander intervention and active shooter response.
Several students said they prefer alerts and posters to stay informed of safety and awareness on the university’s growing campus.
Bilingual education senior Laura Ruiz recalled a time when an officer waited with her outside because she locked her keys in her car, adding that she feels officers are available when students need them.
UPD also offers to charge car batteries or air flat tires, which Davidson said is easier than contacting an outside company such as AAA.
Ruiz recommended that the campus provide more information programs about UPD services.
Davidson said initiating a large amount of training procedures in one year is uncommon, adding that the community needs to know their officers are trained and able to respond in various situations.
“There’s no organization that trains more than the police, except for the military,” Davidson said. “By law, the officers have to do 40 hours (of training) every two years.”
New training procedures implemented by Davidson include active shooter training, tactical first aid, domestic violence training, Clery Act/Title IX, as well as suicide prevention.
“Sometimes we need to have those conversations,” bilingual education senior Elena Robles said.
Interviews with students suggest the majority have a positive outlook toward UPD’s services, although a few shared dissatisfaction with parking permit costs.
Davidson said individual parking spaces cost the university between $1,200 and $1,600 a year. One reason for the price is because of the need to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifications in addition to a precise grade and slope of pavement.
Political science junior Arnold Serrano says he’s felt the university police presence on campus.
“I see (the officers) all the time. They seem friendly,” Serrano said, adding that he’s sure the department’s programs will protect students and employees on all three South Side campus facilities.
Davidson detailed the size of the department, which consists of 13 sworn police officers.
Davidson said the department is proportionate to the student population of 4,522, and the number of calls the department receives.
Visitors and downward expansion – the addition of freshman and sophomore classes – determine the overall size of UPD. The campus would be a significantly different landscape when this occurs, Davidson said.
Davidson said as the university continues to grow, the campus needs heightened security measures for distinguished guests and speakers.
“We need to make sure we understand their language … and formulate incident action plans prior to (speakers) being here,” he said.
In the future, Davidson said he would like to target alcohol awareness, as a student service, and the physical dangers of drinking, in addition to putting more information online.
A number of students responded with feelings of safety and security at the campus and praise for sharing of information to help spread awareness.
“Any deterrent is a good thing … anything that’ll give students peace of mind, knowing services are there,” criminology junior Eric Hendry said.
One such tool used to spread information quickly is the messaging system which alerts students of any emergencies on campus or nearby areas.
The messaging system informed Robles of the fire drill earlier this semester. Davidson estimates the university’s text messaging alert system costs the university $5,000 a year.
The focus is ensuring that if a student becomes a victim of crime, it’s important to get them back into their school routine as quickly as possible, Davidson said.
In the next five years, Davidson expects the department to model UTPA. Davidson would like to prioritize action and assistance over obstacles and barriers that may hinder progress.
“I want the police department to be apart of everyone’s success,” Davidson said.
For additional information, visit http://www.tamusa.tamus.edu/upd/. Crime logs and additional information regarding services offered by the university police can be found at UPD’s office, located in Room 120 of the Madla building.
In case of emergencies, dial 911. UPD can be reached at (210) 784-1911 both on and off campus.