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Serving ETSU with pride: Public safety first TBR force to receive accreditation honor

July 31st, 2013 10:10 am by Rex Barber

Serving ETSU with pride: Public safety first TBR force to receive accreditation honor

An ETSU police officer patrols the campus outside Centennial Hall. (Ron Campbell/Johnson City Press)

Self defense is a skill set that students at East Tennessee State University can learn for free from the campus Department of Public Safety.

One course in particular, the Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) course, is taught by Officer Amanda Worley, who said each offering of this 12-hour, women-only course fills up quickly.

“I’ve had people from the age of 8 to the age of 80 take it,” Worley said.

That course is only one of many such courses offered to faculty, staff and students by ETSU officers.

Other programs offered by the department include alcohol, drug and crime prevention, as well as resident hall safety tips.

Additionally, the department started a new program last year called Operation ID, which allows students to input identifying information such as serial numbers from high-end items into a data base that can then be used in the event something is stolen.

These are just some of the services beyond policing that the department offers.

The quality of the department and level of professionalism member officers exhibit has led to a recent accreditation designation by the Tennessee Association of Police Chiefs.

But it took several years of hard work by everyone in public safety to achieve that accreditation recognition, which is the first for a Tennessee Board of Regents public safety office.

“I think having this department accredited will enhance the service we give to our community through the professionalism of our officers,” said Jack Cotrel, ETSU chief of police and associate vice president for public safety.

The accreditation was awarded April 4.

ETSU was one of the first departments to participate in this new accrediting program.

As of April, there were 58 police agencies in Tennessee participating in the program and 21 of those agencies had attained accreditation, Cotrel said.

“In my opinion this is something any agency owes to the community it serves,” Cotrel said.

The program for accreditation is completely voluntary.

There are several options for a police agency to acquire accreditation. One of those options is via The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc. Many large police agencies have this accreditation.

ETSU’s public safety department has 31 employees, 21 of whom are sworn officers. There are around 15,000 students at ETSU, and about 3,000 of them live on campus.

The public safety office is based in a small building on the far east end of campus, near Centennial Hall; however, the office will be moved to a space currently being built in the new 1,200-space parking garage on the west end of campus. That garage should be ready for use sometime after the start of the fall semester, but the public safety space may take longer to complete.

“One of the main reasons TACP developed this program was to make accreditation affordable to small departments in this state,” Cotrel said.

Cotrel said the standards are just as exacting for the relatively new TACP accreditation as for CALEA accreditation.

In fact, Cotrel said the department’s entire general order manual was rewritten by completing this TACP accreditation process.

“Having that on record... I think that reduces department liability and the risk of civil litigation,” Cotrel said, adding that each officer must be trained on the general order and sign a document proving he or she is knowledgeable of the general order.

“It’s a risk management tool, but I think it all bleeds over to an officer’s pride in their job and department and how they deal with the public,” he said.

Dealing with the public is a large part of police work, and at ETSU that means dealing with the student community.

To that end, an officer has been assigned to the housing on campus. His job is to patrol the housing complexes and dormitories to reduce crime but also develop rapport with the student body.

“It’s community relations; it’s crime prevention; it’s getting out there with our students and community in housing and getting to know them,” Cotrel said of what the housing officer position gives the department.

But the accreditation recognition was the result of a team effort, Cotrel said.

“It’s a departmental effort,” he said. “Every person in the department had a role in achieving that goal.”

The ETSU Department of Public Safety earned national attention in 2011 when it was the first-place winner in the National Law Enforcement Challenge, hosted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

ETSU won in the college/university law enforcement division and was recognized for its efforts in advancing various highway safety initiatives, such as “Click It or Ticket” and “Booze It & Lose It” and for hosting several educational programs on campus safety, speeding, DUI prevention, car seat installation and traffic safety.

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