Twenty new officers joined the 65-member University Police Department staff this academic year and nine new officer positions were created this fall to accommodate the Mount Vernon campus, UPD Director Dolores Stafford said.
Grae Baxter, executive dean of Mount Vernon, said the presence of UPD officers has been noticed by members of the 26-acre, all-women’s campus.
“I’ve heard students comment that they feel very good with the security here, and I am personally very pleased,” Baxter said. “We’re a small campus with lots of trees and grass, and (UPD officers) are very visible here.”
Mount Vernon employed officers from private security companies before July 1, Baxter said.
Stafford said the new officers completed extensive training this summer. Officers in training spend a minimum of 280 hours in the field with a master patrol officer. They take a 40-hour class on campus law enforcement, including studies of the D.C. code and the laws of search and seizure.
Officers spend about 60 to 70 hours in certification training, where they learn defense tactics, first aid and CPR.
During employment, officers must spend 320 hours at a campus law enforcement academy run by a consortium of local colleges, Stafford said.
About one-third of the UPD officers participate in advanced degree programs at GW, many in forensic science, Stafford said. She said most officers in degree programs spend about two to three years on the UPD staff. The turnover rate since the end of the spring semester is normal for the summer months, she said.
“We have a lot of officers pursuing their master’s degrees,” Stafford said. “And typically, once they complete their master’s, they are generally looking to go to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency and other federal departments.”
About one of every six to eight new officers leaves within the first few weeks because the job was not what the officer had expected, Stafford said. UPD has made a change in its interviewing process to combat that problem, she said.
Candidates for officer positions will be offered the chance to shadow a UPD officer on a regular shift around campus to get a taste of UPD officers’ responsibilities.
“We’re going to try to give them a better understanding of the job by letting them actually see what we do, to try to give them as much information as we can to make sure it’s a match on both sides,” she said.
Stafford said the walk-along will be incorporated into the interviewing process in the next few weeks.