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University Police meet with other SUNY police agencies to discuss campus practices and issues

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Photo from flickeflu.com
Photo from flickeflu.com

By Madeline St. Amour

Staff Writer

[email protected]

Members of the State University of New York’s police department system were recently invited to attend an investigators roundtable to discuss major campus issues, network, and share their experiences as investigators. The two-day long conference was held at Longfellows Hotel in Saratoga Springs on Sept. 29 and 30 and was sponsored by the SUNY Office of University Police and the New York State University Police Chiefs Association.

   A total of 44 University Police personnel, including supervisors, investigators, and officers, attended the event from 23 different SUNY campuses. Three of those attendees were investigators from the criminal investigations unit at the University at Albany: the head of the unit, investigator Paul Burlingame, as well as investigators Jeremy Clapper and Matt Griffin. Investigator Burlingame reports to Deputy Chief of Police Aran Mull, who said that UAlbany sends their investigators to these conferences because, “A lot of what happens on this college campus is common with what happens on a lot of other college campuses, so getting our investigators [to sit] down with investigators from other colleges to discuss, number one, what’s happening, and number two, how they’re responding to it . . . it brings a bunch of experiences together.”

   “Sharing that insight is really important. One of the best ways to train an investigator is to get another investigator in there that’s done it so that investigator can say, ‘this works’ or ‘this doesn’t work’ or ‘this works under these circumstances,’ so allowing that experience to be translated across the SUNY system is really powerful.”

   The conference focused on three major issues that SUNY campuses and the nation are dealing with: drug trafficking, changes and updates on major laws and acts, and sexual assault. Many other issues were covered, but “sexual assault and drug use . . . have a profound impact on our campus and community. They’re also currently the ones that both state and federal agencies are focusing on, so we can get a lot of good instructors. We want to get the most out of these training sessions,” said Mull.

   When the investigators learned about drug trafficking from the New York State Intelligence Center and Police, there were two main focuses. One was the legalization of marijuana in some states in the United States, which has led to a “societal trend” in which people are smoking marijuana more openly, so that SUNY police have seen “a large increase in the amount of arrests for marijuana.” With that issue, the focus was on education.    

   The other focus was on opiates generally and heroin specifically. “A lot of what we’re looking at is where is it coming from? How can we feed information into the joint task forces that are addressing the issue so that we can limit the amount that comes on our campus and have more effective investigations to cut it off at its source?”

   SUNY’s Office of the General Counsel also updated the attendees on any updates or recent changes to Title IX, as well some of the nuances of the federal Clery Act and the Violence Against Women Act. The Deputy Commissioner of the State University Police, Paul Berger, said that, “Beyond being police officers, we’re also university officials, and we need to stay up to speed on changes in the law.”

   Berger also said that the centerpiece of the training conference was the presentation made by the US Department of Homeland Security, called “Sexual Assault Investigations through the use of Social Media and the Internet.” One of the police chiefs in the SUNY system had met an expert within the Department of Homeland Security who could speak about this topic. The chief recognized that this would be a dynamic presentation on a very useful topic for the investigators in the SUNY system. “They were able to provide a DVD of investigative resources to every attendee,” said Berger. The speakers were computer experts, said Mull. “We looked at specifically how investigators would get certain types of information, and what types of information are sometimes available through social media.” The speakers from Homeland Security also discussed how to pull information off of a computer and how to successfully subpoena and obtain documentation concerning social media.

   Networking was another major component during the conference. “Networking is really powerful in policing,” said Mull. Having speakers from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security “allowed us to establish some connection with them.” He mentioned that this can help in the cases that not every campus usually deals with, when the university police may need to call in for backup help. Berger said that, “The networking is critical . . . If we can get people together and get them to work together, it’s going to be better for everybody.”

   The conference concluded with a roundtable where the investigators shared some of their experiences that they’ve had while on the job at their SUNY schools. Berger said that this “cross-pollination of experience and technique” is where investigators can learn the most from each other. He said that there was an “outstanding response” to the conference and that the sponsors are “loosely thinking about topics for another [conference].” Mull had mentioned that he would like to see this conference occur more often.

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