Having the safety of thousands of students on your conscience would be overwhelming for most people, but not John Richardson. Richardson has served as UICs Chief of Police for over 6 years, and he continues to focus on the safety of Chicago college students and campus visitors. Unfortunately, there are many people who assume that large cities, like Chicago, run rampant with crime; which may make parents uneasy about letting their child attend an urban university. Chicago College Life is here to tell you that faith should be restored in campus police, because UIC does have the 2nd largest police force in the state of Illinois, next to the Chicago Police. However, we do understand that there is a little paranoia inside of everyone that makes you wonder if there’s something evil lurking around every corner. To ease your worries, last week Chicago College Life sat down with the big man on campus himself and asked him questions about safety issues, police procedures, crime against students, and campus drinking policies.
Chicago College Life: Thank you for meeting with me today! Can you tell me a little about yourself, and your experience as a police officer?
Chief Richardson: Well I am in my fortieth year in law enforcement: thirty-three years with the Chicago police department, and my last six years, going on seven, have been at UIC. Throughout that time, I worked a number of different assignments with the Chicago police: chief patrol, deputy super intendant, district commander, deputy chief in charge of the airport and mass transit, and special operations for SWAT team for the city.
CCL: Wow! So you definitely have a lot of experience. I know there are people that joke about campus police being “rent-a-cops,” but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
CR: No they’re not! Yes, we’re all state certified police officers.
CCL: That’s great! Can you tell me what kind of responsibilities you have as the Chief of police for UICs campus?
CR: I am responsible for the safety of all employees, students, visitors and property to the campus. I also deploy officers to areas where there are needed, and I help keep the campus as safe as possible.
CCL: What do you mean by “as safe as possible?”
CR: Well we will always have crime and people who do things when police officers are not there at that particular time to stop or prevent it—we try to keep the campus safe by preventing crime.
CCL: Okay. Aside from you, do your fellow police officers execute any procedures to ensure the safety of students?
CR: The officers go through a rigorous training program at the Chicago Police Academy for 16 weeks. Once they come out of there, they do another 18 weeks of training with veteran officers, teaching them the campus itself. We have been very fortunate to have some of our officers be previous students—they worked here as student patrol, and then became officers, but they are given a number of hours of all kinds of training in dealing with crime, protection, and respect for students. We make sure our officers do their daily rounds [walking through the buildings] and premise checks to ensure the safety of our students and visitors.
CCL: UIC is located in a big city, and crime in Chicago is inevitable! So in your opinion, where do crimes against students typically occur, and why do you think this the case?
CR: As you say, we are a big city and the campus is open. We have a lot business, so there are a many people who come in and out of the campus. We address this during orientation and tell students to be aware of their surroundings—don’t be out late at night by yourself, travel in two’s or three’s, do not walk around on your cell phone or with your iPod in your ears [because people can come up behind you]. Normally that is when crimes against our students occur, and although we’ve had a few crimes come through campus, they usually take place on the outskirts of UIC.
CCL: Based on the crime that happens on or off campus, do you think it’s necessary for Chicago college students to carry personal protection?
CR: That’s a good question. You have to be careful when carrying protection, because sometimes students do not know when or how to use it. If you carry it, learn when to use it and how to use it properly when being attacked.
CCL: what type of personal protection would you recommend?
CCL: On another note, what type of drinking issues does your police force deal with?
CR: We do have incidents where students get very intoxicated, and we’ll have to call an ambulance [for alcohol poisoning]. We have an understanding with local establishments that they should check all IDs—no student should drink under 21 years of age, and those who are over 21 should drink in moderation, make certain that they do not get overly intoxicated, and can stay in control.
CCL: Do you deal with drinking issues related to the dormitories?
CR: Housing, normally, is the first person to deal with that, but we do get called to assist.
CCL: I’m curious, what exactly is the campus police policy on “busting parties” as far as off-campus apartments are concerned?
CR: If there are complaints from the community or residents in that location, then we will respond. We do not go around off-campus apartments looking for parties—it’s only when we are called. The Dean of Students prints up flyers every year that advises students of our drinking policies; and we’ll deliver them to most off-campus apartments. If you are having a party, you must be responsible for the people at your party. If we find minors drinking at a party we’ll disperse it, but if there are many minors present we might have to lock-up the party host.
CCL: Okay, that’s understandable. On a similar note, on what occasions do the UIC police and Chicago police work with each other?
CR: We have an excellent working relationship. We have a robbery task force (RTF) in which two 12th district officers, and one UIC officer follow up with each other, and ride around to prevent robberies/assaults against UIC students and other people in the area [12th district]
CCL: Okay, that’s great. I don’t have any other questions for you unless there’s something you would like to add?
CR: No, I’ve said what I needed.
CR: Good luck.
Overall, student safety generally relies on common sense. Never hesitate to reach out to the UIC police for help, and always feel inclined to use your universities escort services like the UIC Red Car. Chicago College Life hopes that our interview with Chief Richardson restored your feelings of personal safety on campus, and prompted you to think twice about drinking responsibly.
Interested in learning more about campus safety? Check out Rima’s blog: “How Dangerous Can It Get?”