UMPD comes to SGA meeting to discuss campus security resources

The SGA opened the floor for the UMPD to answer questions or concerns regarding their work on campus

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Judith Gibson-Okunieff / Daily Collegian

By Sophie Hauck and Grace Lee

Members of the University of Massachusetts Police Department met with the UMass Student Government Association on Wednesday to discuss the security resources students can access from campus police.

“People probably have their perception of SGA and what that acronym is,” said Police Chief Tyrone Parham. “We figured let’s tell you who we are behind the UMPD acronym.”

Police officers answered questions about the blue light response system—the system of pillars across campus that connect students to emergency services at the push of a button.

Chief Parham explained that the response time for the blue light system varies, depending upon officer and cadet availability, the severity of the situation or if a student calls during the period between classes.

As Parham explained, during passing periods, traffic is heaviest, which leads to an increase in response time. “It really depends, to be honest,” he said.

“We have a large campus. We have some accessibility challenges,” Parham said. He emphasized, however, that when emergencies arise, an officer or cadet will arrive as soon as possible. “Obviously we’re going to do lights and sirens if we’re talking to the speaker and there’s some sort of active emergency going on,” he said.

“A police cadet is really an extra set of eyes for the police department,” Lieutenant Tom O’Donnell said. Students serve in the UMPD cadet positions.

“We hire them while they are still in college so they can see if they like the job,” O’Donnell explained.

“They have no arrest powers, they don’t carry any weapons,” O’Donnell added. “We consider them peer mentors.”

Parham noted that the UMPD doesn’t intend to over-police the campus. However, they offer security services that many students are not aware of.

Parham encouraged students to call the UMPD if they need emergency transportation or other security services. While UMPD serves a limited radius beyond the UMass campus, if students need transportation or a safe escort home, they can contact the UMPD dispatch phone number and officers will help them reach a solution.

The officers also introduced two members of their K-9-unit, K-9 Alec and K-9 Parker, encouraging students to message the UMPD Instagram account if they ever want to meet the dogs.

“In all my years of policing, this is probably the most rewarding thing I’ve done,” Officer Jerry Perkins said, referring to his work with the K-9 Department.

Parham also addressed concerns about campus accessibility during recent snowstorms, citing a recent occasion when an officer contacted facility services to clear a path for students in mobilized wheelchairs.

He encouraged students to make use of UMPD services by alerting them of campus accessibility issues or accessing an escort. “We’re here for the students,” Parham said. “We’re for you.”

Secretary of University Policy Tess Weisman asked Parham about ongoing discussions to disband the UMPD. “I think about it as a parent,” Parham said. “I think about it as a Black man, I think about it as what is in your best interest as college students.”

“I haven’t really heard an actual UMPD officer or Chief Parham actually talk about it, so I just asked him and wondered what his response would be,” Weisman explained of her question.

Parham believes that this should be an ongoing conversation. “That topic deserves much more time,” he said.

“My profession needs to do better,” Parham noted. He explained that the UMPD aims to hire officers who align with the department’s anti-racist mission.

“I think that he made a really good point: we can’t just [get rid of UMPD],” Weisman said. “We need to come up with a plan for what would be replacing that because I think we do need some sort of protection on campus.”

Weisman encourages students to look into recent demands written in partnership with the UMass chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “Some of those demands are really good, and I think that we’re really on the way to get them approved.”

UMPD phone number: (413) 545-2121.

 

Grace Lee can be reached at [email protected], Sophie Hauck can be reached at [email protected].