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Safety First – Oklahoma City University PD Shines in Blue
OKLAHOMA CITY — Common sense prevailed when Oklahoma City University decided to replace its security department with a full-fledged police department. As the general rule states, “safety first.” OCU Police Chief Lyndel Harris said when looking at the list of positives versus negatives, the transition to a police department made perfect sense. “It seemed the best way to ensure a safe environment for our students, faculty and staff was a switch to a certified police force,” Harris said. He has been keeping an eye on the campus since 1987 and was one of the people tasked with presenting a proposal to the university president. The process began in 2001. Harris pointed out a few of the advantages of having a full-fledged police department on campus: Access to crime alerts and records from across the nation, more and better officer training, more authority and better collaboration with other city emergency agencies. Perhaps the biggest benefit, however, is the improved officer retention. “The officers love it because they get more status and benefits working the career they love. It’s difficult to retain security officers because they generally want to become police officers within a few years. We don’t have that issue anymore,” Harris said. Most of the former security officers stayed with OCU and went through the official training process. To remain with the force they are required to take continuing education each year, another benefit over the security department status. The OCUPD has access to crime alerts and records from all over the nation, which makes it easier to find stolen goods like computers and electronic equipment. The department can run through the system vehicle tag numbers, serial numbers from suspected stolen goods, and background reports on arrested individuals. It also has more crime-fighting gear like a “bird’s-eye” campus-wide camera system controlled from the central office and better police vehicles. The department has 13 police officers and four dispatchers. There is at least one officer and one dispatcher on duty at all times including nights, weekends and holidays. Its jurisdiction covers N.W. 23rd Street to N.W. 30th Street, and Classen Boulevard to Pennsylvania Avenue. Rick Hall, vice president of student affairs, was another part of the transition proposal process. Hall said the department’s exceptional record speaks for itself. “We’ve been fortunate not to have had any major incidents here,” Hall said. “It’s a peaceful, safe campus, which was the most important goal.” Hall said a new police station near the university main entrance at N.W. 23rd Street and Blackwelder Avenue is being considered. While noting that statistics proving the advantage over the alternative are tough to quantify, Hall said things like a growing student retention rate and comments from campus community members have proven the police department’s worth. “People feel safe and like it here,” he said. “Creating a police department is another victory, another home run, in a string of things we’ve tackled lately.”