Student safety panel encourages better police and student relationships

Chief of Police Brad Wigtil spoke at the Baylor Department of Public Safety’s first student safety panel about the need for better relationships between police officers and students. Photo credit: Liesje Powers

Chief of Police Brad Wigtil said Baylor Police Department wants to earn the respect and trust of Baylor students everyday, and that is why he is focusing on community policing.

“Establishing good relationships between students and police is vital to the safety of our students,” Wigtil said. “If you don’t know and trust us, you will be hesitant to report, and that is the last thing we want.”

Wigtil said he asks officers every shift to get out of their car and introduce themselves to students and ask if there is anything they can do to help. Wigtil said that since Jan. 1, officers have talked to more than 700 students separate from reports.

Wigtil is also considering launching an “adopt-a-cop” program, asking student organizations to “adopt” a Baylor police officer and support them through prayer and encouragement.

Wigtil spoke at Baylor Department of Public Safety’s first student safety panel in the Bill Daniel Student Center Wednesday evening. Associate vice president of public safety and security Mark Childers said the department plans to host an open forum once a semester to answer students’ questions and hear their concerns about safety on and off campus.

Childers stressed to students that no questions were off the table and that the panelists were there to help students in any way they could.

When answering how students can contribute to making campus safer, Wigtil reminded students to always report if they see suspicious behavior.

“Sometimes students may think that they are over reacting or bothering the police with non-emergencies, but we are always happy to listen to reports,” Wigtil said. “We would rather be alerted to something that turned out to be nothing than not know as soon as we could to something that was potentially dangerous to students.”

Leigh Ann Moffett, director of emergency management, encouraged students to download the Rave Guardian App and explained that students can use it to text and send pictures to dispatchers if they are in a situation where they are unable to or do not want to call 911.

During the question and answer portion of the event, Childers and Wigtil said students who report a crime or witness a crime will be given amnesty by Baylor and Baylor police if the student reporting had also been involved in illegal activity. For example, Wigtil said if a student is underage drinking at a party and reports a sexual assault, no victim or witness will be reprimanded by the police or Baylor for drinking.

“We want students to be safe, and we never want students to feel unsafe reporting an incident to us,” Childers said. “When in doubt, always call.”

Students also asked clarifying questions about when to report to the police as opposed to the Title IX office. Childers advised students to always report to the police ,even if the student does not want to press criminal charges. Wigtil said the police department and Title IX work closely to ensure students who experience trauma are given all the resources available and said he would advise reporting any incident of sexual assault or intimidation to both the police and the Title IX office.

In addition to taking questions from students, panelists updated students on current and upcoming improvements and changes to campus security measures.

Matt Penney, director of parking and transportation services, detailed suggestions made by a consultant review that Baylor parking and transportation services received last semester. Penney said the parking space counter outside of the Speight Garage has been helpful in eliminating unnecessary traffic in the garage. He said Student Government has provided funding to add parking space counters to two more garages, which Penney recommended to be the East Campus Garage and Dutton Garage.

Childers addressed the negative media attention Baylor has received regarding campus safety and assured students that Baylor’s department of public safety has some of the best staff in the nation.

“This is a darn safe campus,” Childers said. “You as students own this campus. Let’s take it back from the press and the idiots at ESPN who say people shouldn’t send their daughters to Baylor. Let’s take Baylor back.”

At the event, police officers passed out several safety resources including a brochure about the police department, fliers about underage drinking and how to spot alcohol poisoning and cards to test drinks to see if they have been drugged. Students can get any of these resources at the police station.