FIU Police investigators, patrolmen dedicated to ensuring student safety

Photo by Sudyen Navarrete

In order for the University to remain safe for students to wander freely, there’s a big team of police officers under Chief of Police, Alexander D. Casas.

“Every year it becomes more of a game changer,” said Casas. “The things that we’re faced with, that we have to address as University police department is very different from the things we used to address years ago.”

After the Virginia Tech shooting, campus safety changed to a whole new level of prevention.

“We went from a security force, to an entity that is actively involved in the day-to-day operations in the University such as public safety and event management,” Casas said.

From 2013-2014, the University’s highest arrests and referrals were on drugs, liquor and weapons issue and a small amount on burglary and sex offense.

According to the University’s police department annual security and fire safety report, Modesto Maidique Campus had an overall of 472 cases involving drugs and liquor, and 14 cases involving forcible sex offense during 2013 and 2014; Housing had 265 cases between 2013 and 2014; BBC had 29 cases during the same years.

“As the chief of police, it is my primary job to ensure that our campus is safe and secure,” said Casas.

According to Casas, he ensures that his officers are working during the dates and the times that is assigned to them. He constantly checks that his officers are where they’re supposed to be.

“If you look at our staffing levels, you will see that we have officers at certain times of the week, and certain times of the day,” said Casas. “It’s because we have a larger population here.”

He makes sure that his officers are active during the night to protect students in housing.

“We still have a significant population in housing where officers are specifically assigned,” said Casas.

Other types of patrol that the University’s police department provides is crime investigation. We have investigators who are in charge of investigating campus crimes in order to prevent them from happening again.

“We arrest the perpetrators to make the students feel safe and bring closure to those incidents that occur to them,” said Casas.

In addition to investigators, the FIU Police Department also has a K-9 unit. The unit is in charge of detecting explosives, or anything that can paralyze an entire institution.

“We do get a number of calls that someone left a bag, or a suspicious package,” Casas said. “We will come and we will check it, make sure it’s safe that way we can go about our business without having to shut the school down.”

The FIU Police Department has specialized units that can be described as pedestrian safety units. Their job is to write tickets and to make sure that the FIU  community can get across the street as safe as possible.

“It involves traffic enforcement,” said Casas. “Primarily… for fall, we have so many more officers on campus, it is primarily to ensure that our students are getting around safely.”

Chief Casas explains that because dangerous incidents continually take place all around the world, the university’s police department is always trying to improve and implement the most current types of training here at FIU.

The FIU officials are constantly attending conferences, continuing their education on monitoring with what’s going on in the local, national and international community.

“For instance, if you have a terrorist incident overseas, I take a look at what happened and study the debriefs and then we adapt our tactics here,” said Casas.

“The Pulse nightclub shooting, we studied that,” Casas said. “We read the debrief, how the officers responded and we looked at how we can do better here, so we are always trying to get better based on what other people have done elsewhere.”

A police officer must be certified by the state of Florida with an amount of training. The required training that officers must undergo is 10 hours of training every 8 to 10 weeks, mandatorily. Casas said it takes up to seven months to finish the police academy.

“Once you get out of the police academy, every year an officer has to maintain a certain amount of training, which is required by the Florida Department Law Enforcement,” said Casas.

In addition to the mandatory training for Florida officers, they go through additional training for FIUPD for about ten hours about 8 to 10 weeks that is also mandatory.

“We train… how we use our equipment, how to respond to dangerous incidents, how to communicate, how to deescalate, [to understand] cultural sensitivity,” said Casas. “Training is tactical and what we call a hard side of the table and soft side of the table. Its as important for me to make us train more than probably most departments in the country.”

Casas believes that it is important to maintain officer’s skill set because skills can diminish if they are not practiced often. He also believes that the more comfortable FIU officers are with their equipment and tactics, the less likely they will make a mistake.

“We do 40 hours of crisis intervention training and that helps us understand mental illness, and it gives us different diffusing techniques to address those who are mentally ill,” said Casas.

The best way to reach the FIU Police Department for an emergency is to dial 305-348-5911. That will transfer your call to the university’s police department of communications.

The department will take your call and then will immediately dispatch for help. They will keep callers on the phone to acquire more information and ask additional questions.

The best form of contact for non-emergencies can be called at 305-348-2626. It will take you to the same group answering the phone, however the call is dictated as less of an emergency. Calls can take a longer process due to it not being an emergency, however they will ask callers to provide all detailed information to hand to an officer.

 

Additional reporting by Stephanie Espaillat

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