Our communities today, especially individuals of color, feel that the police are a threat to their well-being. We respect and recognize that the history of policing is tarnished with their role in perpetuating racial injustice. We recognize and ask for forgiveness for the role of policing in segregation, xenophobia, corruption, and encroachments on constitutional rights. These are unpleasant truths for all us in policing. We acknowledge the pain, frustration, and anger that our communities feel and the distrust they have for the police. However, we ask for forgiveness and hope. We want to learn and improve. There over 900,000 police officers in this country. We recognize that there are bad apples but we ask for hope that most of us want to be a resource and supportive of our communities.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, UConn Health had an increased need for security. To provide the care that our community needed without becoming a financial burden, I had officers from regional campuses as well as Storrs relocated to UConn Health. This provided essential security functions for our health care workers and supporting staff working around the clock to combat the pandemic. We were fortunate to have the resources to allocate due to the campus closure at the other campuses. Currently, we are in the process of returning those officers to their assigned campuses, which might have contributed to the perception that we have all these officers on the UConn Health campus.
Our officers also receive the same training and authority to protect and serve their community as every police officer/police department in the state. UConn Police officers receive annual training in use of force and de-escalation techniques. We receive extensive training that focuses on communication and the use of less lethal options that are available to the officers. Our officers are taught about constitutional rights and provided with legal updates to make sure they understand application changes in areas like the constitutional amendments, which are continually altered by case law. Just recently we had officers attending a class addressing “Crowd Management and Protecting Civil Rights.” We mandate all our officers to read all policies and procedures and to speak up if they have a concern. The well-being of our community members and supporting the mission of UConn and UConn health is our priority.
Finally, the sad truth is that there are predators out there who will target the weak. Quantifying the prevention police officers have in their communities is impossible. We understand threats that exist and try to keep our community safe. For example, Federal Bureau statistics indicates that in the last 10 years, the United States averages approximately 20 active shooters per year and those numbers are on the rise. In the last 10 years, approximately 164 shootings have taken place in hospitals across the country. As a public institution, we are fully open to the general public. We do not have the benefit to regulate access as private institutions. The freedom provided often comes with higher exposure.
The UConn Police Department values our community. We acknowledge that change and transformation are always needed. We police with the consent of our community. We welcome our community as a partner and want them to hold us accountable. We work with our officers to ensure that they are not dehumanized by the uniform. We believe that ethical policing is essential and we focus on developing a policing culture that has a sense of ownership and loyal to every community member.
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