Griffin outlines upcoming TUPD improvements

The department will use grant funding to retain officers and improve technology.

Temple University Police Department plans to invest in gunshot detection technology to help identify potential suspects. | CHARLOTTE SAUNDERS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

In the weeks following Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald’s death, Campus Safety Services has made efforts to increase hiring and retention within the Temple University Police Department, despite a wait for state funding.

The department is working toward hiring and retention bonuses for new officers, and developing salaries that are competitive with other agencies to retain current ones, said Jennifer Griffin, vice president for public safety.

TUPD is fully staffed for communication center dispatchers and security officers, but is short on detectives, supervisors and patrol, Griffin said.

Campus Safety’s current process allows certified officers from other police departments to join TUPD, and will have a physical fitness test this month for new individuals to possibly join the department, Griffin said.

TUPD currently has two people in training at the Philadelphia Police Department Academy. The department also welcomed eight new officers on March 17, who recently entered the field training program.

Griffin said the training time for prospective officers that don’t have any experience, which could take up to a year and a half, can be a challenge. 

“Unfortunately, unlike a lot of other professions, when you hire somebody, they then go to nine months of training, they come here for three weeks for onboarding, policies and procedures, and then they go on to their field training experience and that takes a couple of months before their out on their own,” Griffin said.

Douglas Green, a criminal justice professor, thinks that there are a variety of reasons that staffing has become an issue in many departments, including fewer applicants.

“Fewer applicants generally means as they start vetting people and restricting that population down to the best folks that they want to hire, they’re just finding fewer and fewer candidates along with the fewer number of applicants so that’s been a huge thing,” Green said.

TUPD, which updated its agreement with PPD on March 1, now receives citywide supplemental patrols, as opposed to just officers solely from the department’s 22nd Ddistrict. The new system is more effective for patrols, and increases communication between the two departments, Griffin said.

“It’s working much better,” Griffin said. “I have, I wouldn’t say daily contact, but I would say probably two to three times a week I’m communicating with one of the executives at Philly talking about, ‘hey, this is the deployment, hey, we need this change,’ or they’ll come back and communicate back with us like ‘hey, we have this large event’ so a lot of communication.”

Alec Shaffer, president of Temple University Police Association, believes that patrols are the most critical operation for overall public safety.

“Staffing is still very much so a visible issue,” Shaffer wrote, in a statement to The Temple News. “[Eight] new officers is great and we are excited to have them but we need dozens more officers on top of that to make a noticeable difference.”

In order for bonuses to be effective retainment tools, the university needs to remove proposed subjective conditions that would prevent the payout of the bonus, Shaffer wrote. All officers would need to receive the bonus without conditions, he added.

Griffin is also anticipating the arrival of a $1.8 million grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to improve safety after it was announced on March 8. The funding will be used for hiring and retention bonuses, as well as gunshot detection technology, license plate readers and improved cameras.

Temple is researching safety improvements and deciding where they want to allocate funding before the money becomes available, Griffin said. Most grants don’t allow invoices until the funding is awarded so currently the university can only plan how to use the money. 

Green believes that these types of technology can help with investigations and identifying people who may be offenders. 

“Whether that deterrent effect is going to actually play out in the short run, nothing seems more challenging, but it’s kind of what you can do with the money at hand in terms of trying to address the problem,” Green said.

Griffin hopes that students will start to see visible safety changes on and around Main Campus next semester, including retrofitted Code Blue phones that will have cameras. The university will also replace cameras that were identified as needing replacements in an audit earlier this year.

Temple will also increase the amount of cameras in areas with dead spots, Griffin said. The improvements will be partially covered by the PCCD grant, and partially by money that the university had already allocated to those efforts.

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