Alumni response: UDPD endangers culture

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Officer “Super Dave” takes part in charity week by watching over the students as they are thrown in jail. Photo by Kaity Chaikowsky.

One thing I know as an alumnus of the University of Dallas is that students, faculty, staff, and alumni  care deeply about our beloved school. We want to do what is best to maintain the top-notch core and liberal education, and protect the unique culture that makes UD so distinctive.  

I’m troubled then, by the announcement that the Board of Trustees voted to create a UD police station to supplement CSO.  

As a concerned alumnus, I see two very major problems with this plan.  

UD is a special place, and part of what has made it special is students’ relationship with the Campus Safety Office, which has done a great job over the years of keeping the university safe.  

More than that, CSO is integrated into  the UD family. Who hasn’t had a conversation with Super Dave, or watched Officer Todd destroy someone at pool?  CSO are part of the culture because they genuinely care about UD and the students.  

An important part of their relationship with students is the power Campus Safety officers have. They do not have the authority or duty to arrest  students for minor infractions. They can break up parties and cause you some trouble if they want. But their power is far different from that of a sworn police officer.

If UD has a campus police department, how many students are going to get police records for doing the stupid things some students will do and have always done?  Police officers are responsible to their superiors first, rather than UD and its community.  This can easily lead to overzealous enforcement.  

Most officers are good people who genuinely want to serve their communities. But the power an officer has and the officer’s duty to enforce the law, could see students in far more serious trouble for the same infraction than they ever would have landed in had CSO responded to the same call. These are not risks I think we should be taking.

It seems pointless to have officers on campus when Irving police are already so close when they’re needed. It was reported to the National Alumni Board that at any given time, officers are only three minutes away. That’s fast — faster than you can walk to campus from the middle of Old Mill.  

If anything happens on campus that truly requires a police response, they will be there, probably before anybody even notices. Based on this, it’s hard to see how opening a campus police department is a good idea for students or for the culture of our school.

Some might answer that this is not an issue of “if something terrible will happen”, but “when.”  They might say that UD needs to protect the students against anything that might happen as well as itself against legal liability. Truly there are some terrible things that can happen. But even in this age of sensationalism, such things are still rare. And opening a campus police department is not the only way to be prepared.   

There is a good and cost-effective alternative: train and arm CSO and possibly some professors and staff to be able to respond in a crisis. When I was a student, there were rumors about CSO having weapons in the office, especially a shotgun. But none of that is true.

Arming CSO will not substantially change the culture because they are already a part of it. But they will be prepared to respond if anything happens. Doing this has the additional benefit that it will be unlikely to cost more than the $125,000 formerly used to bring Irving officers to Old Mill.

This solution covers all the bases from culture, to safety, to liability, to fiscal responsibility, and I believe it is the best one for UD.

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