Independent review of WUPD shows policing practices to be a national model

An independent, high-level review of the Washington University Police Department’s (WUPD) policing practices was conducted last summer.

The recently released findings show that the WUPD’s Fair and Impartial Policing (FIP) policy is a national model for other law enforcement agencies.

The review was performed both in response to a request from Students in Solidarity and as an opportunity to assess the current training practices of the WUPD, particularly in the area of fair and impartial policing.

The university contracted with Margolis Healy & Associates LLC, a professional services firm specializing in campus safety, security and regulatory compliance for higher education and K-12, to conduct the review and offer recommendations.

“The university is pleased that the findings in the report confirm that WUPD is a leader in its comprehensive implementation of Fair and Impartial Policing policies and training,” said Henry S. Webber, executive vice chancellor for administration.

“It further confirms that WUPD’s work in the area of cultural competency is robust and could serve as a national model for other university-based law enforcement,” added Webber, who oversees the Police Department.

At the time of the review, the WUPD had been under the leadership of Chief Don Strom for nearly 16 years. Strom retired from the university in December.

The outside review offered recommendations, which Webber said are helpful in outlining necessary adjustments and in creating an even stronger relationship between the WUPD and the campus community.

The recommendations and next steps planned by the university include:

Recommendation: Collect, maintain and analyze demographic data on all detentions (stops, frisks, searches, summons and arrests), as well as citizen concerns. This data should be analyzed by school and non-school contacts.

Response: WUPD command staff currently reviews all entries regarding all stops on a daily basis to ensure the stops meet WUPD standards for reasonableness. WUPD is monitoring national developments on systems to track such data.

Recommendation:  Consider eliminating the practice of following or shadowing students who are walking to off-campus locations. Replace the practice, which is meant to ensure students arrive safely to their destination, with options such as offering walking escorts or rides where practical, and/or adjusting shuttle routes.

Response: Based on the initial feedback, and prior to the final report being issued, WUPD discontinued this practice.

Recommendation:  Consider posting daily traffic stop and field interview data on the WUPD website to enhance the transparency of the department’s policing practices.

Response: WUPD currently submits this data to the Missouri Attorney General on an annual basis and it is then posted to the attorney general’s website. Washington University is preparing a draft sample of a report that could be posted to the WUPD website, but given the infrequent number of stops, would recommend posting either monthly or even quarterly.

Recommendation:  Conduct pre-training, post-training and six-month post-training evaluations of the Fair and Impartial Policing (FIP) training to track content retention and behavioral change in officers as it relates to FIP and bias.

Response: Evaluations are being implemented by WUPD trainers.

Recommendation: Crisis intervention team policy should specifically state the proper training required for both patrol officers and dispatchers.

Response: As part of the Police Accreditation Program, the current Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Policy can be modified to include the training requirements. A CIT training program for dispatchers was recently initiated and current WUPD dispatchers are being cycled through that training as it becomes available.

Recommendation:  Create a checklist of questions for dispatchers to ask a caller, such as is the person in crisis under the care of a mental health professional; has the person stopped taking prescribed medication; what type of medication is being taken; and does the person in crisis possess or own any firearms or weapons?

Response: In conjunction with the CIT training for dispatchers, WUPD is reviewing the development of a checklist for use by dispatchers.

Other recommendations

The report included comments about the university’s Bias Report and Support System. While outside the scope of the review, the university shared this information with Lori S. White, PhD, vice chancellor for student affairs, who has convened a working group to recommend improvements to the current system.

Included in the report were recommendations for more qualitative evaluation data and formal assessments to determine whether FIP and CIT training modifies officers’ behavior.

Webber said that while the university agrees the qualitative evaluation data and formal assessments would be helpful information, it would take research and additional resources to design platforms to accomplish these goals. Those recommendations will be considered for implementation at a later date.

“We thank Chief Strom for his highly effective and professional leadership throughout his tenure here,” Webber said. “He led a department that has been and continues to be under interim Chief Mark Glenn committed to keeping our community safe.”

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