In efforts to eliminate any potential tension between UCF students and their law enforcement agency, Mariah Frison, president of the Emergency Management Student Association at UCF, coordinated an open forum with the UCF Police Department held at the Student Union on Thursday.
"The fact that we can sit here and get rid of those misunderstandings, we can sit here and talk to the leaders of the police department and get the facts of what they're actually trying to do, maybe that can prevent some unwanted situations from occurring," Frison said. "Maybe that will foster more trust from students to the police department so that when a situation happens, students are more comfortable going to them for help."
The forum, moderated by UCF student Elijah Walker, was led by two deputy chiefs and two officers from UCFPD.
Frison opened up the floor by asking the officers about their body camera program, which mandates all officers to record their calls and interactions while on shift.
"So far it's been very, very successful," said Deputy Chief Carl Metzger. "The most challenging aspect of body cameras is remembering to turn them on in a moment of crisis. It's easy when everything goes routine, but if all of a sudden you're faced with an emergency, it can be easy to forget to turn it on. That's something that we do train our officers on. We want them to practice so that it's second nature for them."
Chief Metzger said that UCFPD was one of the first law enforcement agencies to adopt the body camera program when it was first established, no different than a newer program that was recently made possible by a pharmaceutical grant awarded to UCF.
As of this semester, UCFPD officers are now carrying Naloxone, an antidote that reverses the effects of opiate overdoses. After providing a complete demonstration of the device used to administer the drug, Deputy Chief Brett Meade discussed the efforts that allowed UCF to be ahead of the curve once again.
“We were able to develop our policy, our training and we were able to give our grant information to probably 100 agencies across the state of Florida, which we were happy to do because that means saving lives,” he said.
Meade said that, as a result of the grant, UCFPD was able to obtain 150 doses of the drug, each valued at $600, at no cost to the university.
“It’s truly a miracle drug when it comes to addressing heroin overdose situations,” he said. “In those couple minutes that it takes for the rescue to get there, it could be life or death for one of our students.
UCFPD spokesperson Courtney Gilmartin said that the department always seizes the opportunity to apply for grants because they allow them to solve problems without spending tax payer money.
Such was the case with another grant awarded to the department to establish and develop two new programs through UCF’s Victim Services.
Following a 625,000 state grant to be disbursed over five years, UCF will be implementing a new bystander intervention program by fall 2016.
Green Dot will provide intervention strategies for bystanders who experience a situation in which someone has the potential of being victimized, and will be first introduced in the Greek community.
“We want to implement this program first with student leaders with the hopes that they will be able to impact the rest of the community,” Gilmartin said.
A second intervention program, BarTab, which began last fall, targets drinking establishments with the hopes of equipping bar tenders and other personnel with intervention strategies. The program will continue to be implemented in partnership with the Victim Service Center of Central Florida and the Orlando Police Department.
“It’s really easy for us to say, ‘why didn’t you do something?’ but it’s not as easy as it may seem to intervene,” Metzger said. “These programs will help us combat that.”
Daniela Marin is a digital producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @dan__marin or email her at DanielaM@CentralFloridaFuture.com.