Joe Dale Pittman, one of the three final candidates for CSU’s police chief, shared with the community Thursday on his experience and revealed how his current department relates comfortably with students through hacky sack, fishing and knitting.
During an open forum in the Senate Chambers in the Lory Student Center, the seven-year University of Alaska Anchorage Police Chief discussed his approach to university policing and the differences between the city and the campus. If hired, he wants to create a good atmosphere for students through both “fighting the fear of crime” and engaging the campus in “inventive” ways.
“When (students) see a university police officer driving by, a lot of times (they’ll) think ‘well there’s goes a wannabe, he wants to be a real cop, but he can’t . and that creates that negative impression,” Pittman said. “If somebody thinks that their police department is not worthy of protecting them, that’s a problem.”
Overcoming the student body’s negative impression of campus officers “of (the) glorified security guard, has to be corrected on an individual basis,” he said, “We show people that we care and we are here for their success.”
Pittman described a scene of how one of his officers interacted with students, “bringing a human side to the officer uniform.”
“One of my officers, every time he’d see a group of students playing hacky sack, he’d, eeeerrrrrrrr, stop his car, get out and say, ‘hey that looks kind of fun, can you show me how to do that?’ That’s the kind of contact I’m looking for . inventive stuff to engage students.”
A voice in the crowd shouted, “What about knitting with Officer Mike?”
To which everyone laughed and Pittman replied hysterically, “We had a program called ‘Knitting with Sergeant Tom’ with this burley, tall cop holding knitting needles in his hands . excellent contact with students, a different style.”
Pittman allows the campus officers the freedom to come up with ways to communicate to students, and spoke of another time when, “an officer brought her fishing pole to work one day and started fishing for trout. Some people walked by and asked ‘Are you fishing?’ She replied, ‘Yea, go get your boat and come join me,’ Inventive stuff.”
“Once you engage students like that, the job becomes enjoyable and fun,” said Pittman.
Speaking on behalf of his department in Alaska, Pittman said, “I’m very proud to say (we) are a well working and cohesive unit that works as a team. We’re well respected by not only our university community but the law enforcement community . so I love my job.”
Assistant Director of Student Conduct Services Paul Osincup, asked Pittman how he plans to move the department in a positive direction to which Pittman responded, “To create a baseline about where the department is now and develop strategies on where to take them. I can’t do it alone, but I can lead it there.”
Pittman talked further on campus policing in terms of crime.
“Generally, universities are not real crime ridden, usually safe. It’s more about fighting the fear of crime instead of crime itself . creating the essence of safety and security on a one-on-one basis.”
“I treat students as the adults that they are, hold them accountable to the law, (but also) treat them in such a way that they have respect for (us) to where they say thank you,” said Pittman.
Speaking on accountability to the law, fitting for a town with moose, Pittman said, “We have a no harassing of the moose policy. It’s the law, can’t feed the moose or you get a ticket.”
Pittman shared the various ways their officers “shoo” away the moose, one time with roman candles.
“Initially we tried to shoo moose along by honking then we used roman candles. I had never shot a roman candle before, but I thought it looked kind of like a bazooka. So, I rested it on my shoulder thinking it was going to shoot ahead of me . found out quickly it (went) that way pointing behind him.”
Pittman described his management style as very “low-tempered,” saying he treats people fairly. He said while it’s difficult sometimes, it is his job to discipline people – but he will do so fairly and with respect.
“I make sure to get all of the information and respect employee rights before I hold people accountable. I try to be positive and upbeat all the time,” he said. “I handle discipline in a private setting and reward good behavior publicly, the type of behavior I want the officers to emulate.”
Staff writer Lauren Leete can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.