Modern policing is a conversation happening at dinner tables, news tables and conference tables across the country. Below, we asked Police Chief Bernie Gerst for his take on recent controversies and how they’ve affected TUPD operations.
The use of force is a topic of national discussion. Does it affect police work on campus?
We’re not an island–we’re definitely affected by everything happening in the country and in the world. We’ve been listening to the conversations happening nationwide and on this campus, and we’ve taken a few steps to adapt and connect better with the campus community overall. This spring, all TUPD officers completed implicit bias training and de-escalation training. Science tells us that everyone has biases shaped by their life experiences. We recognize this and want officers to be aware of—and reflect on—their own biases so we can work to minimize them. De-escalation training gives officers tools to calm hostile environments without using force.
What role does communication play in modern policing and staying connected to the campus community?
We’re adapting to the needs of a new generation. Everything is needed quickly, especially news. That’s why we’re now on Facebook and Twitter, we have a safety app, we send emails and texts, and we can access on-campus technology to announce important information. Some of these communications are managed via our e2campus system.
What about diversity? The TUPD recently won the 2017 University Diversity and Inclusion Award.
We’ve been working really hard on diversity efforts and trying to build a group of diverse, professional officers who represent the campus community. We want to connect with students, faculty and staff. We want people to trust us and know who we are before something happens to them so that they feel comfortable coming to us.
Winning the award was a major accomplishment because it recognizes something we’ve been working really hard on. We’re planning to build on this year’s progress and connect with the community even more.
Looking ahead, what are the TUPD’s plans for the next 10 years?
Our biggest goals are keeping pace with the growth of campus and building strong relationships with the campus community.
Everyone has high standards for campus safety, and police are always in the public eye. As a result, the TUPD needs to stay accredited, which we’ve done a great job of so far. We’re the only dually-accredited university police department in Maryland; we’re accredited by both CALEA and IACLEA through 2021. Communication is always a priority, and we’re also working to improve that.