Campus police work shifts, continues during pandemic

· 3 min read

Campus police work shifts, continues during pandemic

UNLPD
Craig Chandler | University Communication
University police officer Paul Schmeiling directs traffic during the Horticulture Club's Mental Health Plant Distribution May 21.

For the past two months, a majority of employees at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln have shifted to remote work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Some units — like Landscape Services, Facilities Maintenance and University Housing — have remained on campus to provide essential service to the university community. Led by their protect and serve mantra, you can also count the University Police Department among those units that have remained active in their work.

“Similar to other departments on campus, we’ve had to make some adjustments,” said Hassan Ramzah, interim chief of police. “The important aspect for us is to make sure that we keep our officers safe so they can continue to serve the campus community. Throughout these circumstances surrounding COVID-19, our goal is to continue to provide quality customer service and protection.”

With fewer students, faculty and staff members on campus, the department has seen a significant drop in calls — but it’s still staying busy in other ways. Officers have shifted their focus to patrolling East and City campuses on a more regular basis. The increased patrols, Ramzah said, are meant to help deter vandalism, theft and other incidents now that university grounds are relatively empty.

“Maintaining visibility is certainly very important, especially when there are less people on campus,” Ramzah said. “We want to make sure that we’re keeping an eye on buildings and other areas.”

The department has also adjusted its protocols to ensure proper social distancing. Non-emergency callers are encouraged to file reports over the phone instead of face-to-face, and those who need in-person support are asked to provide additional details to protect themselves and responding officers.

Like many other essential units on campus, University Police began stocking up on masks and other protective gear as soon as the pandemic began. That prompt action, Ramzah said, has helped the department transition smoothly into its new operations and give peace of mind to all involved.

“We started early working toward obtaining personal protective equipment for our teams. We didn’t want to create a situation where we were not prepared,” Ramzah said. “We take the well-being of our members and the community seriously.”

As Nebraska continues to plan for in-person classes for the fall semester, Ramzah and his team will bring that same flexible mindset to campus.

“Our priority is the safety and protection of campus, and that won’t change,” Ramzah said. “We remain responsive to providing safety services for the campus community while adjusting to the changing conditions as a result of the pandemic.”

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