Two members of the University of Connecticut community praised the UConn Police Department (UCPD) during the department’s reaccreditation hearing Tuesday night.
“I’ve been with members of the police department during the worst things that can happen on a college campus,” UConn Counseling and Mental Health Services Director Betsy Cracco said. “I feel supported. I couldn’t ask for better colleagues, people who are there through all hours of the days and nights who keep us informed.”
Cracco said having such a competent police department facilitates her department’s work with students experiencing mental health crises.
“Many of them are (crisis intervention) trained…that makes a huge difference to how things go down,” Cracco said. “They are really compassionate and caring individuals who really want the best for the students.”
Cracco said she feels more confident that incidents will be handled well when UCPD is present.
“Our department feels greatly assured when the police show up,” Cracco said. “I think other universities are not so fortunate, when the police show up there is some concern that things are going to go down badly.”
Nicholas Zeleny, a seventh-semester applied research and economics major said he has worked as an EMT for several years in Trumbull and Willington, which has brought him into contact with various police and fire departments. He said he believes UCPD has a high level of professionalism.
“I feel very secure on campus,” Zeleny said. “I fully believe the department meets, if not exceeds the accreditation standards.”
Even though the UCPD has been reaccredited every three years since their original accreditation in 2000, UCPD Chief Hans Rhynhart said it is never a guarantee.
“There’s a lot of pressure to make sure we’re okay in their eyes,” Rhynhart said.
Rhynhart said there probably are not any major problems because if there had been, they would have been aware prior and the hearing would not have taken the jovial turn it did after both speakers left.
“If you do it right, you’re literally doing it every day,” Rhynhart said. “It’s part of the fabric of the department.”
Only two people spoke at the hearing, which Rhynhart said is likely a testament to the fact that most members of the UConn community are satisfied with how the department is operating.
Rhynhart said UCPD maintains its commitment to meeting the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies’ standards in order to constantly reevaluate how to make their policies better.
“Unless there’s some type of internal or external motivator for review, it’s easy (for policies) to become stagnant,” Rhynhart said. “We made that commitment to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
CALEA accreditation requires an agency to provide a set of uniform-written directives, reports and analyses. A CEO needs to make management decisions, have a preparedness program to be in place, develop a relationship with the community and help the agency pursue professional excellence, according to the CALEA website.
Carolyn Consoli, one of the assessors said that CALEA recently updated its policies so that it will now require agencies to review a portion of its polices annually, shifting to a more electronic structure, and only reassess on site every four, rather than three, years.
Rhynhart, who was permanently appointed police chief in January, said the existing framework of CALEA standards helped him transition into the role.
“As a relatively new chief, the value I see (in the reaccreditation process) is that it provides a framework on how we operate and how we can continue to be successful,” Rhynhart said. “I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I have this great framework of things to look at how to make things better.”