University Police Chief Dolores Stafford received a national campus safety award earlier this month for her innovative work in Foggy Bottom.
Stafford, a 15-year GW employee, was recognized as Campus Safety Director of the Year by Campus Safety Magazine because she succeeded in “transforming her department’s personnel, mission and level of service,” the magazine said. They cited the creation of 4-RIDE as one of many programs that Stafford helped implement.
Stafford said she was proud to receive the award but stressed the importance of her entire department.
“This award is deceiving because it’s a team effort in what we do here in creating a professional law enforcement agency on campus,” Stafford said. “I’m lucky to have assembled a great group of officers, supervisors and managers.”
Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, said Stafford’s accomplishments are impressive given the extent of GW’s expansion in recent years. He said she has worked within her budget to maximize efficiency in the school’s police force.
“UPD has become much more professionalized,” Chernak said.
He added that the department has progressed immensely in her tenure, evidenced by increased officer training and UPD’s national accreditation by the Commission of Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. UPD is among the 1 percent of university police departments that receives CALEA accreditation. The department has gone from 50 percent compliance in 2001 to 80 percent this year.
Master Patrol Officer Christopher Gearhart said UPD’s accreditation is a result of Stafford’s dedication to improving the department.
“She’s willing to change things, and she realizes in a police department it’s necessary to change,” Gearhart said. “If change is presented to her, she’s not one to push it aside and reviews it from all angles.”
Gearhart said he has seen a dramatic change in UPD in the six years he has worked in the department. He said Stafford’s “community policing” style has been well-received by students and faculty.
The “Adopt-an-Officer” Program is an example officers gave of Stafford’s community policing efforts. The program selects officers to visit residence halls and talk about topics such as crime prevention and sexual awareness.
UPD Lt. George Brittle said the “Adopt-an-Officer” Program has fostered a closer relationship between the department and the student body. A UPD officer since 1973, Brittle said he saw Stafford’s dramatic effect on the department when she was hired.
“She has done wonders for this department,” he said. “She took this department out of the Stone Age of campus law enforcement into the 21st century, before the century even got here.”
Stafford’s tenure has seen an increase in the number of patrol vehicles from one in 1992, to seven, Brittle said. He said Stafford has also incorporated such technologies as computers to assist in officer reports.
“She’s fair, honest, helpful, professional and friendly,” Brittle said. “She believes in team work, and she created some programs within the department to try and build team spirit.” He added that if she left GW he would follow her to another institution.
Master Patrol Officer Todd Ladson, who joined UPD in 1989, said Stafford helped create the Field Training Program, which trains officers in three- to seven-week programs. Officers are also required to complete an additional 250 hours of training during their first five months at the department and take additional training classes every year.