Miami University Police officers hope that when walking into the station right off State Route 73, visitors will encounter a different feeling than most police stations.
Under the guidance of current Police Chief John McCandless, the station has taken the initiative to play a positive, yet disciplinary, role in Miami students’ lives.
The station was built in 2000 and McCandless was appointed in June 2004, so MUPD has a sense of youth in its atmosphere, according to McCandless.
And along with his appointment, McCandless desired to carry his philosophy of service to the Miami community.
“I certainly inherited a great department in the first place,” McCandless said. “But it’s the little things that we like to do to make the people we serve more comfortable. Our focus is to be customer-service orientated.”
Miami senior Jamie Beyersdorfer experienced MUPD’s initiative of positive student relations when she received a parking ticket outside the Shriver Center at the end of the fall 2006 semester.
“(The MUPD officer) was writing me a parking ticket, but he said that he would make it $15 instead of $25 because it was Christmas time,” Beyersdorfer said. “I was still (upset) that he was writing me a ticket.”
McCandless said he agreed that despite the station’s focus on compassion, the MUPD officers are still forceful and maintain overall safety for the students.
“At the end of the day, we still have to arrest students for underage intoxication,” McCandless said. “In my mind, we try to treat people with respect and dignity. When people break the law (in Oxford), it is because they made a bad decision. We like to turn these incidences into teachable moments also.”
Besides the typical underage drinking arrests and tickets for which campus police are infamous, McCandless said MUPD is pleased to go beyond the call of duty and help in situations such as jump-starting students’ cars and even lending money to students.
MUPD Captain Jason Willis said the department as received many comments of appreciation from students and parents.
“(MUPD) get(s) letters from students and parents all the time thanking us for our help,” Willis said. “We put them all up on (a) board so all the officers can read them. It fits in well with what we’re all about here.”
To further their mission of caring, Willis suggested to McCandless that the station remodel one of their two investigation rooms a few months ago. The idea, Willis said, was that MUPD could provide a room where victims of sensitive crimes, such as rape, could speak to police in a more comfortable environment, rather than a bare, intimidating room.
With a grant from the Butler County Rape Crisis Center, MUPD plans to put carpet, soft furniture, tables and lamps in the small room after Miami students leave for summer vacation. McCandless also stressed that MUPD is the only station of its kind to have a victim-friendly facility of this sort in Butler County. He also stated that MUPD is willing to open the room’s use to other local police departments should they require it in a case where victim sensitivity and comfort are needed.
“We want to be the best police service we can be,” McCandless said. “When I met with President (David) Hodge earlier this year, our ideas fell in well with his philosophy of good service.”
Another large part of bettering their service, McCandless said, is continuous training and specialization.
Lt. Daniel Umbstead of the Oxford Police Department (OPD) went to police training run by the FBI with McCandless and agrees with the ideals the chief stresses at MUPD.
“The personal side of the job is equally as important as the professional,” Umbstead said. “Things at OPD are not particularly different. Officers need psychological and physical tools to properly serve the public.”
MUPD has a German shepard named Ero who specializes in explosives along with typical tracking training most K-9 dogs receive. Ero and his handler, Officer Todd Stewart, comb auditoriums before most keynote speeches, checking for signs of possible foul play. Ero inspected Hall Auditorium for former U.N. ambassador John Bolton’s speech Tuesday for explosives.
The station has also received a $4,000 grant for the Tacsight S1 Camera from the Department of Homeland Security. The Tacsight is a thermal imager that eliminates the low visibility of night, and highlights the heat given off by people. It is particularly useful, McCandless said, when looking into dense foliage at night to find a fleeing suspect.
MUPD will receive the thermal imager this summer. It is so exact, McCandless said, it detects fleeing suspects by tracking their thermal footprint in grass.
Just four months ago, all the officers of MUPD were required to take a beginning Spanish course to better prepare themselves for multilingual situations, especially with visitors to Oxford.