Police respond to student needs

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When people lock their keys in their car in the Union parking lot, Meresa McKesson knows who to call for help.

“The [campus] police responds quickly,” McKesson said. “They are always prompt and friendly.”

A junior working at the Union front desk, McKesson often contacts University police for a locked car or stolen property.

The University features its own police force independent of the city’s division, helping students through the Department of Public Safety in College Park near Falcon Heights.

Sgt. Tony Dotson with the University police department said the force provides many safety services for students.

“We are a regular police force,” Dotson said. “We do everything from crime prevention, police investigations and trafficking to providing talks to the university about alcohol or self defense.”

Along with University police officers, students are hired part-time to help jump-start cars and the escort service.

“The escorts are there for anyone who feels uncomfortable,” Dotson said. “They will come and walk a student from where they are to where they need to be on campus.”

The University police also oversees the dozens of emergency blue lights throughout campus.

Capt. Michael Campbell is one of the 25 sworn-in officers working for the University.

“We also have 10 part-time students and six dispatchers,” Campbell said. “We operate 24/7 and are available to anyone on campus, whether a student, faculty or visitor.”

The whole department costs about $1.9 million per year to operate, according to Campbell.

“Most of the money comes from tuition and state taxes,” Campbell said. “The rest comes from parking fees and fines. The majority of the funding goes to employing the people.”

While the University police get funded and hired by the University, they share many of the same things with the city police.

“We share the same jurisdiction,” Dotson said. “However, we tend to handle on-campus calls while they handle off campus.”

Campbell agreed and said while the two forces work together, they often handle their own parts of town.

“Both the University police and city police are certified by the state of Ohio,” Campbell said. “We can call on each other if need may be, but we tend to stick to our own areas.”

Dotson had a personal reason why he chose to come work for the University instead of the city police.

“I enjoy working with younger people,” Dotson said. “There are more educational opportunities here on the University to teach students about safety.”

McKesson has heard many talks given at the Union by the University police.

“These officers are really here because they want to help,” McKesson said. “They all have great things to teach students. They work here because they really care about the students.”