Author: UConn Deputy Police Chief Maggie Silver

Campus Safety Corner: Report on Policing

Deputy Police Chief Maggie Silver
UConn Deputy Police Chief Maggie Silver (Photo by Kristin Wallace)

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.

Do you have a suggested topic for the Campus Safety Corner? Email your suggestion, with “Campus Safety Corner” in the subject line, to pulse@uchc.edu.

Campus Safety Corner: Community Connection

Creating connections and engaging our community make up one of the cornerstones of our mission.

UConn Police Department group shot on Farmington campus
UConn police officers at the UConn Health campus for the Connecticut Special Olympics torch run June 2021. (Photo provided by Maggie Silver)

We understand the importance of human connection. As a police department, we try to find new and innovative ways to create new connections. We want to be part of our community and support the community in any way that leaves the community better.

Our officers know that giving back to the community is essential. Many of us do so by donating time, random acts of kindness, and helping others in need. We accomplish some of those goals by getting involved with many great organizations.

For example, we are strong supporters of the Special Olympics. This year, thanks to the hard work of Sgt. Dominic Nesci, the Law Enforcement Torch Run ran through our Farmington campus, with many officers participating, including Sgt. Nick Catania running in full uniform.

Chief Silver about to rappel down a 30-plus-story building
As a community outreach effort, UConn Deputy Police Chief Maggie Silver is taking part in a fundraiser for the Special Olympics by rappelling down a 31-story building at the Mohegan Sun Casino Sept. 3, 2021. Pictured here is the start of her descent in the same event in 2020. (Photo provided by Maggie Silver)

We also have conducted food drives, toy drives for DCF children, and stuff a cruiser with school supplies for inner city kids. For us, connecting with the community is a priority and hopefully we serve as a role model for others to join in helping.

It is also fun as it pushes us out of our comfort zone. Last year, I rappelled down 31 stories for “Over the Edge for Special Olympics of Connecticut” campaign. If you want to see some 2020 pictures go to my page. I also had a great group of people cheering me on and waiting for me at the bottom. I’m doing it again this year, on Sept. 3 — scary and fun but also a great way to support!

Take time to help each other. When we support each other, we succeed, we heal, we grow.

Do you have a suggested topic for the Campus Safety Corner? Email your suggestion, with “Campus Safety Corner” in the subject line, to pulse@uchc.edu.

Campus Safety Corner: UConn Police Community Survey

Deputy Police Chief Maggie Silver
UConn Deputy Police Chief Maggie Silver (Photo by Kristin Wallace)

Constructive feedback can be empowering and helpful for all of us to achieve our goals. While feedback when not delivered appropriately could develop hurtful feelings, it is vital to understand that feedback helps us progress. Developing critique sessions for yourself and/or your team takes practice. At first these sessions may seem time consuming but with patience and commitment, constructive criticism just makes you and the team stronger.

There a few guidelines to follow when exposing yourself and the team to constructive criticism. First, be transparent about your goals. Second, remember that disagreement on issues is not necessarily a bad thing. Difficult dialogue helps us understand other perspectives and grow. Third, create situations where feedback is exchanged, meaning those receiving feedback are willing to receive it.  Our goal is not to criticize but to analyze what can be improved, what is being done well, and identify actionable items for growth.

In the spirit of positive growth, the UConn Police Department is seeking our community’s feedback. We want to hear from you about what is being done right and what we need to improve. To achieve this, we invite all members of the community to provide feedback through our anonymous online UConn Police Community Survey. Your opinion matters. Our goal with the survey is to capture the attitudes and opinions of the community with respect to:

  • overall agency performance
  • overall competency of agency employees
  • citizens’ perception of officers’ attitudes and behavior
  • communication with the community
  • community concern over safety and security within the agency’s service area
  • citizens’ recommendations and suggestions for improvements

Completing this survey should take about 15 minutes and help shed light on how we can better assist our community. Find it at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/R5RFHCJ.

Do you have a suggested topic for the Campus Safety Corner? Email your suggestion, with “Campus Safety Corner” in the subject line, to pulse@uchc.edu.

Campus Safety Corner: When Comfort Zone Becomes Dangerous

Deputy Police Chief Maggie Silver
UConn Deputy Police Chief Maggie Silver (Photo by Kristin Wallace)

The core enemy of situational awareness is complacency. Each one of us develops instinctual situational awareness. Over time, we get complacent in our comfort zones or stop listening to our senses. We disconnect from paying attention. We let our guards down.

I am not asking you to be in constant hyper-alert mode. An endless hyper-alert mode is draining and dangerous to our health. Understanding your unique relationship and response to your environment is vital to situational awareness. Exercising your situational awareness is good for all.  If each of us takes a moment to check our surroundings and report any unusual behaviors or situations, our community is better off for it.

As a reminder, an individual should not make you uncomfortable. The behavior makes you uncomfortable. Their actions, or in some cases inactions, which seem odd or out of place are what you will report. Frequently individuals make comments after an incident occurred stating that they felt like something was not right. However, they failed to notify an authority because they did not listen to their personal alarm. Next time a situation seems odd, remove the individual. Observe the actions or inactions of the person. You know your environment; trust your senses, and report the behavior that does not fit the situation.

Remember that situational awareness must be practiced because it quickly erodes into complacency. Practice situational awareness by thinking of activities that reduce your complacency and increase your ability to be present.

Do you have a suggested topic for the Campus Safety Corner? Email your suggestion, with “Campus Safety Corner” in the subject line, to pulse@uchc.edu.

Campus Safety Corner: Testing Our Resilience

Deputy Police Chief Maggie Silver
UConn Deputy Police Chief Maggie Silver (Photo by Kristin Wallace)

The new phrase in our vocabulary as we reconnect with family and friends in an attempt to reset our routines is “this is new normal.” For many people, the mere thought of this as a new normal is upsetting. If you are one of those individuals, give yourself permission to be dismayed. We have experienced a global pandemic. However, remember that there is an amazing resilience within each one of us.

  • Resilience is a key element to our survival. Resilience is about growing and even thriving in adversity. The key is to develop opportunities to feed your resilience through mindfulness, relationships, and goals. Each of those points has the potential to improve your resilience. For instance, one of the most important aspects of resilience is mindfulness. Feed the positive and disregard the negative. Develop a system of checks and balances of your daily thoughts. Learn to foster and trust healthy thoughts.
  • Relationships are essential to resilience. At this stage, you can have a gathering with appropriate social distancing or have a Zoom party. Nurture your support system and respect your journey as well as the journey of those around you.
  • Lastly, establish goals and outline objectives that will help you positively focus your energy. Develop a positive, clear path for yourself.

These three simple measures will ensure that regardless of the type of life-changing situation you face, you will always emerge stronger.