Frostburg State University Police Officer Training
When it comes to becoming an officer on any police force in the United States, there are certain requirements that must be met, and certain training procedures that must be taken. Inquiring minds wonder if the same thing happens when one is trying to become a part of the Frostburg State University Police Department. Cynthia Smith, the chief of the police department here at Frostburg State University, agreed to an interview in which she spoke on the requirements and training for becoming one of the officers on her staff.
“Let me talk about the training [phase], because in Maryland our officers go through a Maryland police training commission training in standards commission-approved academy,” Chief Smith explains. She continued to say, “They meet hundreds of training objectives that are both content-based and demonstrable skill based.” This training includes knowledge and physical skills; it includes things such as handcuffing and understanding of laws. Chief Smith illustrates that this protocol is followed by every police officer in the state of Maryland. “Basic training is the same for a University police officer, Frostburg Police Officers, Allegany County Sheriff Deputy, or Maryland State Trooper,” says Smith. However, she stated that state troopers have their own academy, and it is live-in for five days out of the week. In addition to this basic training, Maryland officers have to maintain 18 credit hours of in-service training.
Even though FSUPD’s training is equal to Maryland state police’s training, there is an extra component to it. Campus officers can choose to take classes that are specific to their campus problems, and this will help them reach the required eighteen hours of in-service training. Chief Smith explains, “It might be something to do with sexual assault, it might be something to do with first aid or CPR; it just depends on what their issue is for the year. Moreover, where campus police focus on specific topics, off-campus police most likely won’t.” Chief Smith gave even more detail on this: “Some of our guys might go to some training that is more geared towards policing a university campus, where Frostburg City might not focus on that quite as much.” Chief Smith believes that the training is very consistent regardless of its minor differences.
There has been a lot of training done by campus police surrounding the use of force, Title IX, and constitutional law. The use-of-force training was taken prior to national events like the death of Freddie Gray. “If we have to use force-even force so slight as putting a hand on someone-we want to do everything we can prior to using force,” Chief Smith passionately states. Similarly, she informs us that officers have participated in classes concerning crowd control.
When it comes to protocol between the FSU police department and the Frostburg City police department, Smith states, “Any Chief brings a different leadership style to their department. University policing is different than municipal policing– we have a different community.” Chief Smith illustrates the difference in community between the two departments: “We have students from [ages] 17 to 25, and that’s the bulk of our community. The city police deal with people who [have] lived [in the area] their entire lives. With the differences, the departments have different issues.”
Chief Smith also believes that there should not be much difference in the way the FSUPD handles students as opposed to city officers. Yet, the uniforms were purposely made for everyone to be able to distinguish the two from one another. “My officers wear a light blue shirt, and our patch is different,” she says. She understands that students in need of law enforcement’s help may not realize the difference between the two departments. Likewise, the two departments’ cars are noticeably discernible. Chief Smith says, “I will tell you why we do that– it’s for anyone who has a bad experience with law enforcement, so they know who they need to go talk to.”
“To file a complaint against a university police officer [can be done] any number of ways,” she says. The steps that can be taken are sending Chief Smith an email, telling a dispatcher that you want to make a complaint, or asking to speak to a supervisor. During the early hours of the day, Chief Smith, lieutenants, and administrative staff are available if a student needs to file a complaint. In the evening, students need talk to sergeants or a senior corporal about the matter. The complaints will then be forwarded to Chief Smith. Moreover, Chief Smith thinks that complaints are often misunderstandings between staff and students. “It may be that the complaints can be handled without an investigation,” she says. Yet, if the complaint is serious, it will be given to a lieutenant to investigate, and it goes through a process through Maryland law called “the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights.”
It is very infrequent for the complaint to have to go through this process; there has only been two of them within Chief Smith’s eight years at FSU. She hopes this is an indication of the good job the department is doing, and that students do not refrain from filing complaints.
Regarding how an individual can make a complaint to the Frostburg City Police Department, Chief Smith unfortunately could not be of assistance; however, we were able to conduct an over-the-phone interview with PCO Gracie, of Frostburg City Police Department, for answers. When asked for the procedures for filing a police report, Police Communications Operator Gracie said that, “There are a couple of ways you can do that. You can come into the station and file a report, speak to an officer, or someone can come to your residence.”
What about complaints regarding the Frostburg City Police Department itself? How would one file a complaint pertaining to that? “I would say you would have to speak to the chief of police. Either come by or call,” she explained. According to PCO Gracie, this is the most formal policy of the department regarding filing a complaint. When asked if there was data of the number of FSU students who file a complaint against the department, PCO Gracie did not have a formal answer. She did explain that the Frostburg Police Department just started collecting that information, and that by the end of the year, there may be a more official number for inquiring minds.
Written by Kyle Bowling, Latisha Lewis, Kadeem Parker, William Stewart, and Dynia Walker