Northwest’s University Police Department received certification from the U.S. Department of Justice March 1 by meeting criteria for safe policing communities.

Safe Policing for Safe Communities is a presidential executive order that came from former President Donald Trump’s administration. It complies with a federal directive that all law enforcement will not allow choke holds and will have a duty to intervene.

UPD received a notice that it would need to comply by a certain date to be eligible for federal funding. Since UPD reviews general policies and requirements every year, the department was already in compliance but needed to submit documentation stating so. The certification compliance is valid for three years.

UPD’s Lieutenant of Operations Anthony Williams has been with the department for 10 years. He said a lot has changed since he began working there, and that the shift to community-oriented policing has been a benefit.

“One of the biggest things now is that a lot of agencies are looking at us to try to, you know, I won’t say copy but try to understand how our social media has grown,” Williams said.

Williams said it wasn’t UPD officers who had the biggest hand growing social media but rather students who worked for UPD who helped cultivate that outreach.

Highlighting community policing and safe policing at Northwest and in the community remains a focus of UPD. The Justice Department certification was key to allowing UPD to apply for funds necessary to make its annual programming and events happen, Williams said.

Additionally, steps like this certification and an overall focus on safety and community policing initiatives has helped Northwest rank consistently among the safest campuses in the nation. In 2020, Your Local Security, a provider of home security and safety tools, ranked Northwest as the safest campus in Missouri and ranked number 42 in the country.

Williams said he wasn’t at Northwest when the department was just known as campus safety but that he likes to learn about the history of the department and how it became a legitimized police agency.

“Having the ability to run with others and be legitimized in the eyes of municipalities and county agencies is huge,” Williams said. “I stand strong with officers that we have and their abilities. When they leave here, they’re going to be leaders no matter where they go.”

UPD offers numerous awareness programs to educate students about relationship violence, sexual assault, crime prevention and emergency preparedness. Its Safe Ride Home program, launched in 2004 as a student initiative, has reduced violations for driving while intoxicated by more than 63%.

UPD reports that more than 90% of students with whom officers interact in a judicial manner rate their experience as a quality one.

Williams said UPD’s work to create a culture of community policing has helped the department better understand strengths and weaknesses, areas that can be improved and what it can celebrate as a success. 

“I don’t think I could have asked for a better group,” Williams said. “We have several different personalities, and I think that helps us grow. We are able to have somebody hold us accountable for certain things and try out new ideas to make things better.”

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