University police squad car in front of Old Main.
Photo by University Relations.
Public Safety or Campus Safety may be the names that come to mind when thinking about those who protect and serve the University of Wisconsin-Superior (UWS) campus every day. However, as of June 16, 2021, they are now the University Police Department (UPD). The idea behind the name change is nothing new but has been slowly being achieved for over the past two and a half years. As private security officer positions opened, they were displaced with qualified police officer positions. The entire patrol schedule is now filled by police officers led by Joe Eickman, who in November will have his current title of Director of Public Safety changed to Chief of Police. However, Eickman will still be reporting to and working with Jeffrey Kahler Vice Chancellor for Administration & Finance to ensure the changes run smoothly and the campus stays safe.
“We want to really portray the image that we are sworn police officers in this department now and that’s what prompted the name change from the Department of Public Safety to University Police Department,” said Eickman. This doesn’t mean they are part of the Superior Police Department (SPD), but an independent department with their own jurisdiction. However, Eickman and many of the Campus Police officers know counterparts at SPD so they work closely with and support one another with information or officers if one department is busy and the other is having a slower day.
Compared to security officers UPD officers have much greater latitude regarding enforcement options and the duties they’re sworn to uphold. Eickman illustrated these differences with an example of what the expected duties are between the two officer types in the event of an active threat on campus. “A police officer versus a security officer have two very different roles in a hostile intruder situation. A security officer is going to get as far away from that situation as s/he can while still being able to see, to possibly get information of what they can observe. Whereas a police officer has a duty to act and make it to the scene and handle things accordingly. In terms of protection for the students, staff, and faculty police officers make more sense in what they are trained to do, are capable of doing, and what they have a duty to do.” While UPD officers have greater enforcement powers these are still at an officer’s discretion. In situations where the public safety is not immediately threatened officers will favor warnings or tickets before resorting to sharper measures.
UPD can be seen driving around and between their jurisdictions which are all areas owned by UWS and UW-Extension stretching down to Lake Superior Research Institute’s facilities on the shores of Lake Superior. They are responsible for all UWS property and respond to crimes in their environs.
When it comes to the camera system on campus while UPD has access and plans their locations the systems are operated by ResNet. Jay Revering, ResNet Coordinator, oversees the maintenance of the system. While talking about cameras currently operating Revering mentioned, “All ResHalls and MWC are covered. There are some common spaces around campus that are covered. As well as about a quarter of the parking lots. Plans are in place to have pretty much all parking lots covered within the next couple of years.” These cameras are all motion activated and Revering tries to set them up based on what they’re looking at i.e., people, cars, or property. Generally, anywhere from 10-20 days’ worth of footage is stored on the system depending on available drive space and number of activated cameras. UPD are happy to view camera footage to help discover what happened in the event of an injury or stolen/damaged property. The quicker a student reports a crime the sooner the UPD can start checking recordings. If there’s a broad range of time when a crime possibly occurred rather than a narrower frame UPD will have to spend additional time reviewing all the footage within the time frame and in turn take longer to come back with an answer.
As a police department UPD now has a greater focus on the safety of everyone rather than focusing on minor violations like parking pass violations. This does not mean that those rules are not enforced, just that laws involving safety take precedence. Such laws would include working head lights, going the speed limit (especially in front of the dorms where it switches to 15mph), and emergency calls. When talking about what this means for the department Eickman stated, “We want to work with, be a part of the community. We want to create an inclusive space welcome to all. We are more concerned about safety things than making people mad about laws…. Safety is the heart of what our department is all about.”
As the UPD are an official police department this means they must have certain amounts of training every year to maintain their ability to be a functioning police department by Wisconsin law. This training includes defensive tactics training every year, firearms qualification every year, pursuit driving training every other year, and 24 hours of continuing education in other subjects every year. The officers will do whatever they can to ensure every student is safe while they are here at UWS.
Providing an example of something students can do to work with UPD to protect their property Eickman suggested that students register their bikes with the department. If a bike is stolen the department can alert pawn shops regarding the bike’s stolen status. The process is completely free and provides a registration sticker to put on the bike. Eickman recommends that students buy a D-Ring lock as they require power tools to break which would draw attention from bystanders and patrolling officers.
UPD will receive calls placed to 911 when the location is in their jurisdiction. Eickman identified this as the best thing to do in case of an emergency so the help needed will arrive whether that be the SPD, UPD, or a neighboring police department. The grey emergency phone towers with the blue lights around campus are also a tool in emergencies. If a student, staff, or faculty member wants to report a crime that has already been committed or has any questions directed to UPD they can be contacted by call or text at 715-394-8114 or their email firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPD’s office is in 606 Belknap behind the Parking Services office and you can learn more about them on their website. If you’re curious to learn more about the types of crimes that occur on campus and the policies UPD follow this information can be found by searching for the Clery Act on the UWS website. When asked about any final words about the changes to Campus Police Eickman said, “As police officers we offer a level of services and safety that security services just can’t provide.”