Sgt. Troy Williamson wistfully remembers when the cold evidence locker used to be a dorm fridge encircled by a chain.
Things have changed since Williamson began with the UCF Police Department in 1984, but despite an ever-burgeoning student population over the years, and with that, an uptick in crime and need for campus law enforcement services, one thing has remained the same: Williamson’s commitment to the safety of campus, students and staff.
After almost 30 years of service, Williamson was awarded a lifetime achievement award at the 15th annual Law Enforcement Officers Awards hailed as “a salute to local law enforcement officers.” Williamson was among 25 other officers and law enforcement personnel honored at the awards in eight categories. The annual award ceremony is sponsored by the Orlando chapter of the American Society for Industrial Security. This is the fourth award garnered by UCF police, Williamson said.
Williamson could not take credit for the almost 4-pound metal lion award that sits on his desk, now under the permanent surveillance of a motley squad of model police cars consisting of a 1936 Chrysler, 1954 Chevy and 1964 Ford.
“In representing the UCF Police Department, I have to thank those people for the last 20 years who have hired me, trained me, continued my training throughout every year, those officers that back me up, those officers that I work with. ... It’s one of those joint-effort things," Williamson said. "If it wasn’t for those officers, employees and the university itself, it wouldn’t have been possible.”
One of the accomplishments Williamson is proud to see is increased cooperation between Orange County and Seminole County law enforcement agencies that cover the UCF area. Another is the property registration system that allows students to register their property with UCF police. In the event of theft, the items can be tracked down. UCF police have been pushing the issue hard the past few years, Williamson said, and incorporating information about the service into new student orientation. It’s been paying off, Williamson said.
Another accomplishment is the police K-9 unit UCF police implemented after 2000, Cpl. Charles “Chuck” Reising of UCF police said.
Prior to 2007, the dogs in service specialized in either drug or explosives sniffing. In 2007, the department implemented a full-service canine unit, Reising said. This meant the police dog had to specialize in either drug or bomb sniffing, but it also had to be able to track, do building searches and engage in criminal apprehension more succinctly known as “bitework.”
Christopher Holt, a police officer and canine handler, has been paired with the newest addition to UCF police: Jogy (pronounced YO-gi), a German Shepherd from Slovakia, just arrived two weeks ago. Most of the police canine vendors are from overseas, Holt said, which is why most of Jogy’s commands are in German.
“I love dogs," Holt said. "I work with the current canine handlers and the dogs that we have now. That is one of the things that brought me to the career.”
Reising and Officer Donald “Donnie” Freeman are going to be handling the training, Holt said.
“It is very slow so far. I’m multitasking; I’m training a new officer," Holt said. "When I get done training him, I go to the [canine] training school."
Holt began in the UCF police purchasing department to get his foot in the door in 2006 and in 2007, he was sworn in after the department sponsored his training.
Jogy is the latest of many dogs Holt has had his whole life, although this is the first dog he’s had that also comes to work with him on his 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. overnight shift.
“He’s been adjusting really well,” Holt said. “All of our dogs are from overseas. They all have to get used to it; you do the best you can. The heat doesn’t seem to bother him."
The goal for Jogy is to have him ready by football season in the fall semester to help canvas the 45,301-spectator capacity Bright House Networks Stadium. His specialty will be scent detection for explosives as well as being a full-service tracking and suspect apprehension dog.
German shepherds are well-suited for police work because “they learn fast, they have the right temperament, they know when they are working,” said Reising, who will be overseeing the K-9 unit training of Holt and Jogy.
“Their main function is sniffing for drugs and explosives; we train them to go and assist in aerial searches,” Reising said.
Williamson said that K-9 units like Holt and Jogy, as well as the other tools and resources at the disposal of UCF police, help everyone on campus.
“We’re all human beings; we all make mistakes. If you have negative intentions, you will suffer consequences. I tell students, 'Get back on that crosswalk before you get hurt,'” Williamson said. “We’re here to make sure they’re safe, they have to be responsible. That small percentage makes a big headline. This UCF is ever-so-growing. We have issues. With the exception of last year, our crime stats are going down.”
Even though the numbers went up, the percentage of cases closed by arrest will be higher in comparison, Williamson said.
Holt, who has received awards from Mothers Against Drunk Driving in 2009 and 2010, echoes the feelings of Williamson.
“Every now and then when you help someone, they are appreciative," Holt said. "That’s a good feeling to have every now and then, those people that actually want you there.”
Williamson always credits his fellow officers and the UCF police.
“I was at gunpoint at one time with somebody, a burglar,” Williamson said. “I had to take a gun off another guy years later, there was one person that always came to my aid, he’s since retired, but he was always first on the scene to back me up. It’s those people that I think deserve the credit for this big lion on my desk here.”
Jogy may be a four-legged canine-in-training who steals Holt’s sandwiches and startles at the sound of thunder or the feeling of slick linoleum, but the cool thing, Holt said, is he can reach over his shoulder and pet his backup.