Summer security: U police’s heavy load is made easier by light summer days

Six officers taking positions in other departments have left the University of Utah Police Department missing one-fifth of its on-the-ground work force.

Luckily for Chief Scott Folsom, fewer people on campus during Summer Semester means the police field fewer calls.

“Any time there’s that kind of work force turnover, there’s a little bit of panic,” Folsom said. “The silver lining is that summer is a good time for this.”

Staff shortages can affect response times to emergencies, but there shouldn’t be a noticeable difference this summer. The department is hoping to be fully staffed again by fall when the campus fills up again, he said.

Because of its size, U police don’t handle a large volume of calls during busy months anyway, said Patrol Officer Brian Brodhead. Even during concerts, plays or football and soccer games, the U is an easy place to patrol. “It’s kind of nice because people behave themselves,” he said.

Campus security, which is also part of the U’s department of public safety but separate from the police, is mostly responsible for keeping people safe.

Security guards make sure the buildings are locked up and that alarms are set and working. If a break-in occurs, the police need campus security to let them into the buildings. The police handle emergencies, arrests and crime investigation, Brodhead said.

Commuter Services takes care of parking so U patrol cars mostly watch traffic when not responding to calls. A lot of people are surprised when U police pull them over for speeding a block or two off campus, he said.

“We’re still police and can pull people over if we’re closest-even if it’s off campus,” he said.

Brodhead manages to keep busy with police work even though there’s less to do during the summer. On May 20, he spent the morning helping jumpstart a van, checking on a man sleeping by the side of the road, pulling over a car with expired registration stickers and watching traffic with his radar gun.

Brodhead said he enjoys the lower volume of calls because it allows him to be more proactive. During a normal day, officers answer calls in the morning about thefts or damage done the night before. During the evening, officers have time to make traffic stops.

Even though the shortage isn’t affecting the service U police provide to campus, it’s still stressful from an administrative perspective.

“It’s tough, we’re running short on some shifts and are paying overtime to fill other shifts,” he said.

Two of the six openings have already been filled, however, and the officers will be done with field training in a couple of weeks. Folsom anticipates having all the positions filled again within the next two or three months.

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