By Jennifer Luna
After nearly seven months working with Texas A&M University-San Antonio, University police Chief Ron Davidson is working his way through a laundry list of projects he plans to accomplish to forge a stronger police department.
To begin with, campus police officers received training to use their newly issued firearms November 18.
When Davidson was hired in May, president Maria Hernandez-Ferrier, and Kenneth Mitts, vice president for finance and administration, granted Davidson’s request to issue campus police officers with the Smith & Wesson M&P .40 caliber pistols, the same pistols the San Antonio Police Department use.
Along with the sidearm, police officers also received a fully equipped First-Aid kit, a bullet proof vest, a lock box for the patrol vehicles, AP Batons, pepper spray, handcuffs and additional bikes.
“I can’t stress enough us being able to issue them all of their equipment,” Davidson said. “When they originally came to work here, it was written right there in the policies you supply your own gun, your own gun belt, your own everything. That doesn’t help us out from a professional standpoint.”
Improved equipment and resources has allowed the department to grow and provide safety to about 4,500 students, Davidson said.
However, securing resources was an uphill climb. Although Davidson received administrative support to finance his materials, he said he had difficulty getting the resources he needed.
“There’s a lack of ability to purchase firearms out there,” Davidson said. “We had to get on a wait list and it took awhile to get our weapons into us because they are in such high demand in the civilian marketplace right now,” he said. “We had a hard time getting ammunition as well.”
Despite the challenges, one of Davidson’s major projects is completed, with several others sharing first priority.
Everyday Davidson gets to the office around 7 a.m. and checks the status of the projects he began in order to further develop the police department.
“There are a lot of things on what I call the front burner … It’s just a matter of getting the scope of work done,” Davidson said.
Policies. Procedures. Training.
Although that’s not all of Davidson’s worries, they are the first steps he needs to take in order to build a solid police department.
Patrol Operations Sgt. Roberto Lopez, who was interim chief for the department December 2012 through May 2013, agrees that new materials, and training bring the police department to another level.
“It’s benefiting in every aspect, it’s becoming what an official police department should be,” Lopez said. “There’s training as simple as bike training to S.W.A.T. training to leadership training. It’s just more of a professional development.”
The department recently sent two officers to S.W.A.T training for 6 days.
Since Davidson was brought on board, there have been 30 training orders approved by Mitts.
However, like many other departments, the police department is still trying to keep afloat from the budget cuts.
Davidson said they had to relieve two part-time positions to make room for another full-timer.
“We hired M.S Debbie Van Horn as an admin assistant III to make sure that all the record keeping and record retention is up to speed … We had to eliminate two part time police officer positions so we can hire the AA III” he said.
To add to the challenges, an officer resigned from the university department Dec. 1, which slowed down the department.
The officer, Sgt. Tingwald, supervised two dispatchers at the department and left for personal reasons.
“Of course losing someone of his caliber sets us back – for that matter – losing any member of the department sets us back,” Davidson said. “We wish him all the best in his future endeavors…”
Tingwald’s resignition, is another hurdle the department is absorbing.
“He was going to be instrumental in our moving forward with new technology,” Davidson said.
Now the department is taking an alternate route.
Despite the budget cuts, Davidson believes the campus will soon develop into something great, and completely unrecognizable to today’s students.
As Davidson drives down University Way to go home after a full day of work, he wonders how the campus will grow and develop in the near future.
“Everyday when I leave here, and drive home, I wonder where the next building is going to be at. Where’s our next athletic field going to be at?” … “Where’s our next traditional strip mall going to be at?” Davidson said. “When you can put a footprint down at a university like A&M, you are going to draw business.”
As Davidson is foreseeing the economic boom expected to rise in the South Side, he wants to ready his department for what things may come.
“Everything I’m trying to lay down and place is something that will sustain us and work with us into the future,” he said. “ I’m looking at the big picture on everything that we do, not what’s good for us today, but what’s good for us in 10 years.”