UTPD opens doors for community to see inner workings

Wynne Davis

UT students and staff tip-toed through UTPD’s headquarters as part of the department’s Citizen Police Academy while officers responded to live dispatch calls.

The 11th session of the Citizen Police Academy began last night with a class composed of approximately 20 students and staff at the University. After an introduction from UTPD Chief David Carter and an orientation session from UTPD Capt. Don Verett, the class was the first of seven three-hour sessions.

The academy is free of charge and participants are presented a certificate at the end of the program as long as they complete six of the seven sessions. Verett first proposed the idea of the academy to the department while working at UTPD and getting his graduate degree.

“I was in the Higher Education Administration Master’s program at the time and wrote a paper on CPAs,” Verett said. “I thought UTPD and the University would benefit from having our own CPA.”

The first academy was held in 2006 and the program has continued since then with sessions in the fall and spring semesters. Designed to give citizens a better understanding of the inner workings of UTPD, the program’s focus is to eliminate and resolve any misconceptions the public may have about what the officers do on campus.

For example, UTPD Lt. Greg Stephenson said students often think UTPD acts as a “Big Brother” around campus and that officers watch students’ every move through camera, but Stephenson said there are not as many cameras on campus as students think and the officers are not constantly watching students. 

Participants came for different reasons, but government sophomore John Newcomb said he decided to come after seeing the invitation on UTPD’s Campus Watch emails.

“I have a general interest in criminal justice so I thought being able to look at the police side of the system would be an interesting experience,” Newcomb said. 

During Monday night’s class, instructors covered a diverse range of topics. Following a tour of the UTPD headquarters, UT alumnus and assistant attorney general for the State of Texas Wes Ogilvie gave a presentation on criminal law. After the lecture on criminal law, a representative from Student Judicial Services spoke about student discipline.

The academy meets every Monday from 6-9 p.m. through Nov. 18, where they end with a special presentation featuring the K-9 unit, which trains police dogs to assist officers in their daily duties. Stephenson said this is a class favorite.

“Most people really enjoy dogs and pets — these are friendly dogs for the most part,” Stephenson said. “They get to see the dogs go do the work. You’ll see someone get into the bite suit and bite and release on command. People enjoy seeing the friendly dog just doing his job. It shatters the stereotype that the police dogs are mean.”