Orientation: WSPD works to keep campus safe

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(Photo by Tyler Brown) Officer Sam Owen stands by his patrol car outside the Shepherd Union Building. WSPD offers a full-scale police force protecting the WSU campus and community.

Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, rain or shine, Weber State University’s police department is on campus to keep the Wildcat community safe on university properties.

Dane LeBlanc is the chief of police at WSPD, the organization responsible for campus safety and security.

“Having law enforcement present and public safety readily available and visible is a crime deterrent in itself,” LeBlanc said.

WSPD began as a campus security department with no law enforcement powers in the early 1960s. In the 1980s, legislation allowed the Utah Board of Regents to establish law enforcement agencies within higher education institutions around the state, and WSU gained a police department with law enforcement powers.

The department has grown since and continues to do so. Now WSPD has 11 sworn officers and approximately 35 part-timers coming to WSU from surrounding law enforcement agencies such as Harrisville, Pleasant View and the Weber County Sheriff’s Office.

WSPD deals with the same issues that face police departments in cities and counties across the country, LeBlanc said, but in a more concentrated area, because of student, faculty and staff convening on WSU daily.

“It is not a very large piece of property to put that many people on,” LeBlanc said.

But he said the department is up to the challenge.

“We have a very viable and professional police department that is responsive and goes the extra mile,” LeBlanc said. “We are state law enforcement officers, and we are here to handle any type of incident (students) may encounter.”

WSPD publishes compliance information each year, including statistics of criminal activity on campus. Lieutenant James Wagner of WSPD said that perhaps the biggest criminal issue on WSU’s campus is theft.

“People tend to leave their bags unattended, and we have a lot of what you’d consider crimes of opportunity,” Wagner said. “People leave stuff unsecured, and unfortunately people take advantage of that situation.”

In addition to routine patrol, one of the largest focuses of the department is emergency preparedness. The WSU Emergency Management Program has been under the direction of the police department since 2007 and is aimed at facilitating emergency management operations during crises.

“We prepare for any type of catastrophe,” LeBlanc said. “It’s an all-hazards approach. No matter what the catastrophe is, we’re prepared to respond to it.”

The department holds active drills and training to ensure optimal emergency management in case a serious situation arises. As an example, on Aug. 15 WSPD held a full-scale training test involving Ogden police, fire and SWAT teams, local hospital and emergency personnel, and volunteers acting as victims of various situations requiring emergency treatment and transportation.

“The biggest thing for us that we want students to be aware of is Code Purple, and the importance of being registered in Code Purple,” LeBlanc said.

Code Purple is the emergency alerts system on campus, and LeBlanc said the system is set up to do a myriad of things, such as alerting students to emergencies on campus through phone, text or email messages, emergencies such as snow or wind closures on campus and power outages. Code Purple is also used to call emergency personnel to campus and as a channel for emergency communications.

“It’s a very viable system,” LeBlanc said. “It’s a very good system. We work hard to encourage max participation in Code Purple.”

LeBlanc said WSPD is around and available to assist community members with any issues. Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to report all crimes and public-safety issues and incidents to WSPD as needed.