As a part of our initiative called Curious Cornhuskers, an anonymous reader asked The Daily Nebraskan, “What happened to all the university police officers I used to see? Are they down, and why did they all leave?”
John Backer, police operations captain of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police Department, said the reason police officers may not be seen on patrol as much is because the department gets more calls during the fall semester than during the summer.
“In terms of summer to the fall semester, we may be busier taking calls, so we may not be on foot patrol as much in and around the buildings,” he said. “We’re still working. We’re still here.”
Another reason police visibility may seem down is because of the time of day or where a student may be. During the evenings, for instance, Backer said UNLPD can be seen patrolling the residence halls to connect with students more.
“We schedule our officers according to the busier times of the day,” he said. “As far as where, we use GIS and our reporting system to monitor where most of our activity is happening and try to put our resources there as much as we can.”
UNLPD is made up of 36 sworn positions, ranging from chief to officer, according to Backer.
“Within those 36, we rotate officers in and out of special assignments or specialized positions, such as investigations or on a task force,” he said.
Backer said a typical shift for a university police officer starts with a briefing in which the officers review the activity of past shifts and look at important events later that day UNLPD should keep an eye on. After that, officers divide their time between following up on previous cases, responding to calls and patrolling campus.
“There is something to be said about the cliche phrase ‘no day is ever the same as the previous,’” Backer said. “You never know what to expect.”
On Husker home game days, he said most of the force is dedicated to the football game, but UNLPD will still reserve a few officers for the rest of campus. However, Backer said on those days he sees a drop in crimes not related to game day.
“We don’t really see a spike other than alcohol-related calls in and around the stadium or nearby parking lots,” he said. “It’s not drinking on campus that’s the issue. Most times, they’re drinking elsewhere and come onto campus intoxicated.”
UNLPD is always looking to hire more officers, Backer said, whether they come from another profession or have just graduated college.
“We look for people [with] honesty, integrity, [who] communicate well and make good decisions,” Backer said. “We can train the rest of it.”