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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Crime

Police department hires new officers in wake of campus carry


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Chief of Police Ceaser Moore Jr., left, welcomes one of the nine additions to the force who will add more safety to the University after Texas S.B.11 was implemented. | Courtesy of the University of Houston Police Department

The UH Police Department has significantly increased their police force as a response to Texas S.B. 11, or campus carry law, and other community concerns, said Lt. Bret Collier, UHPD’s Chief of Staff.

Campus carry went into effect in all Texas public four-year university campuses on Aug. 1. It permits anyone with a license to carry a handgun to carry their gun, concealed, on most of campus.

UHPD added nine commissioned peace officers to the department this summer. They include three corporals, or non-commissioned officers of Army rank, and six police officers.

Twenty years ago, UHPD had 40 police officer positions and one security officer position. Today, this number has increased to 60 and 130.

“The additional personnel will allow the department to better address any campus carry concerns of our community and to perform responsibilities related to campus carry such as weapons storage functions, community training and awareness, etc.,” Collier said.

Students had expressed concerns about how the campus carry policy will affect them at the University. UHPD also found through forums, surveys and conversations that students would prefer to see increased responsiveness to service calls.

Collier said UHPD is actively trying to increase the number of officers to carry out more duties.

“Just because they increased their police force doesn’t really make me feel any safer,” Communications sophomore Hadi Rahman said. “I want to know that these officers are accessible every time I need them, like late at night when I’m walking to my car. I haven’t seen more of a presence of officers, so I for one haven’t felt any difference.”

The personnel unit has been working to fill the positions since May with qualified officials.

The additional officers will help with checking in handguns at the police station. Students who carry handguns are required to store their gun at UHPD if they plan to enter a campus carry exclusion zone, where carrying handguns is prohibited.

UHPD is also increasing its training. Staff, police and security officers are being trained about campus carry, how to handle License to Carry holders on campus and how to report openly carried weapons, Collier said.

Collier also said that the department is creating a designated check-in space and storage area for weapons at the station.

“As peace officers, we have been dealing with concealed carry since the mid-90s and these issues are integrated into many aspects of police training starting at the academy,” Collier said. “There are roughly a million License to Carry holders in the state, and our officers have had many professional interactions with this community over the last 20 years.”

Collier said UHPD hires police officers who show initiative, respect and knowledge for the law and have a sense of ethics and an attitude to serve the community. He said these are qualities that make great officers.

“Law enforcement is supposed to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves,” said Guillermo Leon, an Army veteran who recently joined UHPD as an officer.

UHPD has posted additional information about campus carry on their website including awareness and training materials and an Exclusion Zone Request form.

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