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Chief's Corner


7 November 2022

The rate of stolen cars has increased across the country.  With the latest FBI statistics, Colorado ranks 2nd behind New Mexico for the highest number per capita.  I understand your frustration and that you or your student should not have to be distracted with having to wonder if your car is safe in the parking lot.  We did have a small number of car thefts from J lot here on campus this fall.  However, I am happy to report that we have stopped that trend.  Here’s how we did it:

  • We increased our activity in J lot and at Arlington Apartments.  Your police officers have been incorporating lots of directed patrols and spending as much time there as possible.  They are making friendly contacts with everyone who is in that parking lot after dark.
  • The officers are conducting educational contacts.  You will find an officer standing on the sidewalk near the residence halls and talking to every person they can to remind them to remove their valuables and lock their cars.
  • The university has hired a private security company to patrol J lot.  They are out there in the evening and all night long.
  • The university is limiting access to J lot between 10pm and 6am.  Every night, officers place a barricade across the 24th Street entrance to make that parking lot a single point of entry/exit.  Officers remove the barrier every morning.
  • The university has also made upgrades to the security cameras that cover J lot.  This will improve our ability to monitor the parking lot.
  • UNCPD has initiated a “9PM Routine” social media campaign.  This program seeks to have everyone put a daily reminder on their cell phone for 9pm that helps them to remember to make sure their valuables are removed from their cars, and that the cars are locked for the night.  This is also a good strategy for everyone to do at their homes, or wherever they may be.

The point to all this is to help put everyone’s minds at ease.  Chasing your degree is hard enough.  You don’t need to worry about whether someone is out prowling through the parking lot.  We are committed to keeping the campus safe and our efforts won’t stop.  UNCPD is out there all night and we will make sure whoever we find during the overnight has a reason to be on campus.  You can also be assured that President Feinstein took this issue very seriously and supplied UNCPD with extra resources to serve the campus community.  We are grateful for his leadership. 

Aaron  


26 September 2022

In the past week we've seen an increase in the number of calls to respond to a location where someone was speaking about a politically divisive topic.  We are always going to respond and check on what anyone asks us to.  However, we will not infringe upon the First Amendment when people are expressing their opinions lawfully.  People have the right to speak their opinions in public spaces.  While there are a few exceptions, the majority of the open air areas of campus are public spaces.  That means that folks may be distributing literature or asking to speak with you.  These people may not bully or intimidate you, block entrances or exits from buildings, stop or block your free movement around the campus, or use sound amplification devices that interfere with the operation of the university.  There are permits that individuals or groups may obtain that allow them use a designated space, but nothing in that permit forces you to engage with them.  If a person or group is engaging in any of the preceding behavior, call us immediately.

The takeaway from this is that everyone has an opinion.  There are times when you can have a healthy dialogue and a viewpoint can be changed.  Sometimes, there are certain topics that no amount of polite conversation, statistical data, or even yelling and screaming, will change another person’s viewpoint on.  There are also times when emotions and passion override someone’s maturity or decency, and they say things that are rude.

It’s the ability to recognize these moments that will lead to you reducing the stress in your life.  Realize that you don’t have to argue with someone you don’t agree with.  Removing toxic people from your life is a healthy choice.  Also, the understanding that you can still be friends with people who don’t share your opinions will save you a lot of headaches, and perhaps some relationships.  Learn to pick your battles.  You are already on a path to amazing things, so don’t let anyone distract you from achieving the dreams you are chasing.

Aaron


31 August 2022

I hadn’t expected to write another Chief’s Corner so soon after the publication of the previous one, but I wanted to make certain the following message to the campus community is crystal clear.  If you experience something that is uncomfortable, unsafe, or you are just unsure about someone or some thing, call the police.  If you encounter a situation and think, “I wonder if I should call the cops?”, that answer is yes. 

I want to make sure everyone understands that policing is not just handcuffs and criminal investigation.  It’s also about conversations.  Friendly ones.  When we show up, we don’t just find out who needs arrested.  We talk to people.  Whenever possible, we connect them to resources and a lot of our calls are only conversations with people that don’t end up in arrests.

My entire focus is ensuring that you feel safe.  Everyone knows that in case of emergency, you call 911.  What less people know is that if you feel like it’s not an emergency, but you still want to contact the police, most police departments have a non-emergency number.  We do.  It’s 970-351-2245.  You can call that number and get one of our UNC police dispatchers 24-hours a day.  There are other ways to contact us through the Guardian app or by texting us.  But whatever way you choose, don’t start second guessing yourself, contact us.  If you feel uncomfortable telling us your name, you don’t have to.  We take anonymous reports as well.

The officers of UNCPD are here to help.  We are happy to come and check things out for you.  We are happy to talk to anyone, including other people who may be making others uncomfortable or are just acting suspiciously.  The police are not just for when something bad has already happened.  In every case possible, we would rather prevent than resolve.

If you take nothing else away from this Chief’s Corner, just know we want you to call us.  And you should.  It’s what we are here for.  We will find a way to help.

Aaron


24 August 2022

Students are back for the fall semester!  I joined UNCPD at the very tail end of this past spring semester.  I was able to be a part of spring commencement and then the campus went into its normal summer mode.  While the campus is never empty, it certainly felt that way while students were gone. 

With the beginning of a new school year, there’s always hope, excitement, and anticipation.  I had a great time being part of the welcome events that occurred last week!  One thing that did catch me by surprise, especially on move-in day, were the number of conversations that I had with parents to explain that the University of Northern Colorado has its own police department. 

The University of Northern Colorado Police Department (UNCPD) is the law enforcement agency for the University of Northern Colorado.  We are a fully sworn police agency.  We have 17 police officers, seven full-time dispatchers, and a Clery Act Compliance Officer.  That number doesn’t include the student rovers or student dispatchers that also work with us.  We are here 24 hours a day, every day.  We are not Greeley PD, Weld County Sheriff’s Office, or a branch of any other police agency, although we work closely with all of them.  We have an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Greeley that provides us additional police authority up to a mile from the geographical boundaries of the campus.  That’s why you will see our patrol cars off-campus as well.  We want to be available to our students, who we know live off-campus or frequent businesses around the campus area, including downtown Greeley. 

Being sworn police officers, all our officers are POST-certified.  That means each of us has attended an accredited police academy and have been certified by the Colorado Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) Board.  We are required to maintain our annual training to retain our certifications.   We investigate every type of crime, including felonies.  We are also equipped and trained to address all types of encounters, including active shooters.  We pull over drivers who violate traffic code and write tickets.  When we have to, we transport arrestees to jail and testify in municipal, county, and district court.  

All of this is to say that the University of Northern Colorado takes the safety of students and staff very seriously.  Whenever there is an issue, a police officer from the University of Northern Colorado Police Department will respond.  Just so you have it, the phone number to our dispatching center is 970-351-2245.  However, in case of an emergency always call 911.

Good luck to all Bears in the 2022-2023 school year!

Aaron


3 August 2022 

Guardian icon

Apple App store link
Google Play Store

We are always looking to improve the ways you can get in touch with us.  Based on national events and how we better address them, one of the concerns that I have had is how can a person discreetly contact police?  For example, you a student attending a class and there’s someone in the classroom that seems to be acting strangely or is making you uncomfortable.  What can that concerned student do without drawing attention to themselves yet still be able to connect to UNCPD?  We have a solution for that! 

With the Guardian app, you can chat with UNCPD in real time.  Look for Guardian in your app store.  Log in with your UNC info and right there on the home screen is a button to contact UNCPD.  Your message will be delivered directly to our dispatch center and you will be able to communicate directly with a live person. 

UNCPD also has a text number.  You can text the keyword " UNCPD" to 226787 to talk directly with UNCPD.  If you don’t have access to the Guardian app, then save this number in your contacts! 

It’s critical to remember that in case of an emergency, call 911.  However, in the scenario mentioned above, you can discreetly contact us through the Guardian app.  Your text will prompt our officers to stop by that classroom and observe what is happening.  We won’t disclose who contacted us and unless there is danger, we won’t interrupt the class. 

phone with example text

Please download the Guardian app!


19 July 2022

I am excited to share some of the things that we have been up to.  Over the past couple of months, we have been able to address some badly needed improvements inside our own building.  While being partners with the community means we spend a lot of time outside and around campus, each officer also has duties inside our building.  One of the small changes that I made immediately, at the request of the officers, was to change our radio terminology and stop using the word “headquarters” to call out to Dispatch over the radio.  Typically, an officer will use a challenge/reply procedure in which they say the name of the person they are calling, followed by their own name.  The officers did not like calling Dispatch by the word headquarters.  Such a small change (and likely meaningless to all of you) is an easy decision for me, and if it makes the officers’ jobs better, it’s a no brainer.

We have also overhauled an old storage room and turned it into the new men’s locker room.  The old locker room was small and you had to walk through the men’s bathroom to get to it.  The new room now has a fresh coat of paint and new carpeting.  The room is much bigger and allows for officers to change into their uniforms without standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the next guy.

Lastly, and most importantly, the University of Northern Colorado Police Department is now on social media!  Please take a moment to check us out on Facebook and Instagram. Be sure to like the pages, so you can be alerted when new content drops.  We are already working on some interesting video ideas that I think you will like.  

Facebook – University of Northern Colorado Police

Instagram - @unco_police


30 June 2022

Yesterday marked my first time of being able to swear-in new officers to the department.  We are very excited to have Officer Jungels and Officer Vasquez as the newest members of UNCPD!  Both of the new officers are a great addition and Officer Vasquez is a UNC graduate!  Their hiring brings to close a period of struggle over the past two years in which our department saw the departure of nearly half of the police force.  These departures were due to normal attrition, or at least what I call ‘normal’ in the current world of policing.  

The culture around policing has become difficult.  Officers across the country are leaving their departments because of several factors.  Prior to about five years ago, officers would leave primarily for a few reasons.  Either they were retiring, moving to a new police department, or were being let go because of poor performance.  Today, officers are primarily leaving because of pressure and burnout.  Legislative changes, while good intentioned, has made it increasingly difficult.  Jail reform has either limited the types of crimes we can arrest for or has reduced the sentencing to where criminals don’t spend much time in jail before being released again onto the public.  Additionally, the national sentiment, that major news outlets repeat, is a distrust for police.  I will admit there have been moments where cops across the county have made terrible choices.  Those officers should be and are facing criminal charges for their actions.  However, the perception can appear that people don’t want police, don’t trust them, or simply hate them because of the uniform they wear.  Even in Greeley, you can find “ACAB” (All Cops Are *expletive*) spray painted in various places.  All those factors are leading police officers nationally, to not only leave their department, but to leave policing entirely.

Fortunately, UNCPD exists in a supportive community.  We are grateful to have a connection with the members of the university family and the city of Greeley.  I have been welcomed warmly by everyone I have met and when there has been areas that the police department can improve upon, those folks have been kind in letting me know how we can better serve them.  No matter how law enforcement may change, UNCPD is committed to community policing and being partners with everyone.  Now, with the addition of these two new officers, we are nearly fully-staffed and have only one vacancy left.  

To that end, UNCPD is making some changes.  We are working on the inside of our building and making improvements, to both the public and secured areas, to make them more comfortable and welcoming.  We are also moving into the digital age!  Stay tuned as we will be launching our social media on Facebook and Instagram very soon!  We have some entertaining ideas that will be coming soon, and we are excited for the next school year.

Aaron


9 June 2022

We have had another break-in to Bishop-Lehr.  Ugh!  Like everyone, we understand that the building is in a transitional phase.  The future for that building and section of land has a lot of potential.  However, in the meantime, various persons keep finding their way inside Bishop-Lehr to leave a mark.  When I say leave a mark, I mean spray paint graffiti all over the place.

To help everyone understand what this means, Colorado Revised Statutes 18-4-203 is 2nd Degree Burglary.  It is defined as unlawfully entering or remaining in a building with the intent to commit a crime.  Colorado Revised Statute 18-4-501 is Criminal Mischief, which is defined as damaging the real or personal property of one or more persons.  If someone breaks into Bishop-Lehr to spray paint, that meets the elements of those crimes and is the basis for a probable cause arrest.  While Criminal Mischief is usually a misdemeanor, 2nd Degree Burglary is a Class 4 Felony. 

Yes, I said Felony.  Felonies are no simple issue.  They follow you the rest of your life and impact things like being able to get a job.  Many employers conduct background checks prior to employment and felonies are usually red flags that cause big problems.

While this isn’t meant to scare you, it is meant to educate.  Breaking into Bishop-Lehr to do some spray painting may seem harmless.  I am trying to relay that it’s not.  Or at least, a lot of the harm caused may actually be to your future career.  The individuals we caught this week will now have to face those consequences as we charged all of them with 2nd Degree Burglary and Criminal Mischief.

We don’t want to be in this position but based on targeted hate speech and significant property damage that we have encountered in the past, we are forced to take a zero tolerance position.

Please help us!!  If you see someone around the building that looks out of place, let us know right away.  We would much rather prevent an issue than take enforcement afterwards.

Aaron


25 May 2022

Like the rest of the country, my heart goes out to the families who lost their whole world yesterday in Uvalde, TX.  I can’t imagine their sorrow and know that each of us who wears a uniform would give anything, including our own lives, to have saved those children.  Thanks to the efforts of the brave officers there, I am grateful that the tragedy wasn’t worse than it already is.  As the Police Chief for a campus police department, this is the nightmare scenario.  The safety of each student is my entire focus every day.  To that end, your police department never stops training and proactively working to prevent something like this from occurring here.  

We are always looking for ways to improve our training and this year, we will be participating in active shooter response training hosted by the FBI.  We are providing the training space here on campus and are grateful to help facilitate the training not only for us, but for area law enforcement agencies.  We are also constantly patrolling, examining building access and thinking about how to improve the physical safety of the campus.  However, preparation is only part of what we need.  

More importantly, we need you.  We need you to be watchful.  Please let us know if you encounter someone who is in need of assistance.  This can be through seeing a concerning social media post or observing someone who seems lonely or disconnected.  We want to have the chance to speak to them.  I promise you that is not to create a stigma or make that person feel embarrassed.  We will be friendly and compassionate and connect them to any resources they need.  In many cases, it will likely be a clarification or learning moment for someone.  In those other cases, we might become the positive influence someone desperately needed.  

As Uvalde, TX, and so many other incidents like this has taught us, is that all of us can not wait.  As soon as a concerning behavior or unnerving social media posting occurs, you must alert someone with the ability or authority to have that conversation.  We only want to help and maybe that conversation is the key to helping that person.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families in Uvalde!

Aaron


11 May 2022

We wish all graduates of the Class of 2022 congratulations and the best of luck on the next phase of your journeys!  Even though the summer brings some slow down overall for the university, for us, the summer remains a busy time.  During these months, we will be working hard on updating policies and procedures, training and getting ready for the next school year.  There’s a lot to be proud of with the University of Northern Colorado Police Department!  The employees are committed to making an even bigger and more positive impact in the lives of the campus community.  We are putting together plans for increased community engagement and are always on the lookout for new ideas of how to be partners with everyone.

While the students are on summer break, we are still here and will be visible.  You will find us at the UC, at the recreation center or the coffee shop.  We are working on some changes to our building and preparing for a HVAC remodel, which will finally bring air conditioning to the east side of the police department.  We are excited about that! 

We hope to see you over the summer months and you are always welcome to stop by Gray Hall anytime.  We would love to give you a tour of the building and how we operate.

Aaron


22 April 2022

As I move into the end of my first week as Chief of Police, it’s been exhausting but exciting.  I am honored to bring my experience managing in a large police agency to UNC.  There’s so much potential in the University of Northern Colorado Police Department!  It’s been over a year since someone has served in the role as the permanent Chief of Police.  Captain Rick McNair has done a fantastic job acting as the Interim Police Chief!  He has shouldered a heavy load serving in dual roles and is to be commended.  He also had to manage a natural attrition cycle that saw the department lose half of its allotted police officers.  While we wish those former employees well in retirement or their next adventure, we look to the future.  Captain McNair and Sergeant Patrick Gallagher have hired a mix of experienced police officers and new recruits.  Currently, UNCPD has only one vacancy in its ranks.  However, enough praise cannot be given to those officers who weathered the staffing storm. 

UNCPD is a good agency with good people who have numerous ideas for some positive changes.  A lot of feedback has been passed my way and it’s time for the department to shift into the next gear and keep moving forward.  You can expect to see some changes in how we look and how we operate.  I am committed to making UNCPD more of a community partner for every student and every member of the staff.  We will be out of our cars and we will be working on building connections where we can just hang out with you.  Please feel free to say hi to any officer you see in the dining hall, in the common area of a residence hall or anywhere on campus!  My bet is that we will have already said hi to you first!

Aaron