The Summer Wildcat recently had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with the University of Arizona Police Department to find out first-hand how the department operates. The Wildcat staff travelled to the department's main station, located on Campbell Avenue and Second Street.
We met up with Sgt. Juan Alvarez, a 19-year UAPD veteran, and after being issued visitors' passes, we were granted access to the offices within the department.
Alvarez serves numerous roles within the unit, among them as the department's crime prevention and public information officer.
We talked with Alvarez in his office and found out what a normal day is like for him.
As the PIO, Alvarez is the department's public liaison and the officer responsible for interacting with the public, including the media and community organizations.
Alvarez schedules presentations and parental liaisons where officers talk to the public and advise them of ways to avoid becoming a victim. Alvarez and the department know that reducing crime makes the campus safer for everybody and reduces the strain on officers and resources.
Alvarez starts his day at about 7 a.m., reading police reports from the previous evening.
He does this both to ensure the quality of the reports being generated in his department and to get a feel for what has happened in his absence.
Alvarez coordinates media releases, updates the department's Twitter page and schedules events where UAPD officers can interact with the student body, like the upcoming move-in, where officers will physically assist incoming students as they move in to the dorms.
Alvarez led us into the Records Office, where we met Jenna Bourland and Celia Soto, senior office specialists. The Records Office processes all of the police reports and then condenses them into a resume, which is essentially a spreadsheet that the department can use to quickly and easily access information.
The office also handles background checks for potential employees, releases vehicles from the impound, processes subpoenas and serves as the information desk for visitors to the station.
From Records, Alvarez led us into the Dispatch Office, where two dispatchers were staring at a dozen computer screens. All calls placed to UAPD come through dispatchers like Agi Bakonyi and Judy Severson, who are on site 24 hours a day ensuring that callers can get the help they need.
The dispatch team also has the task of performing records checks for officers on patrol. They can access several databases in order to verify names and addresses or confirm warrants and arrest records.
We left the dispatch office and headed over to the department's Business Office. The Business Office handles the administrative tasks for UAPD, including coordinating special events, ordering office supplies and maintaining network connectivity.
In the business office, IT specialist Andre De Leon was busy keeping the department's computer systems up and running, and Veronica Hernandez, an office specialist, was transcribing an interview.
Alvarez then took us from the Business Office to the briefing room, where officers coming in to start their shifts get the important information they need to be safe and productive.
The room also hosts a weekly staff meeting where department heads and commanders meet to keep each other updated on what is working, what is not working and what needs to be changed.
Alvarez led us into the prisoner processing room, where arrestees are taken after being placed into custody. The prisoner processing room is located in a long hallway, near the report writing room, the interview rooms and the evidence processing room.
In this part of the station, officers have at their disposal all of the tools necessary to properly and safely arrest, book, question and safeguard detainees and prisoners.
Alvarez then led us to the equipment issue room, where safes containing shotguns and rifles stood along side racks of portable radios and riot shields, all neatly organized and ready for use, should officers need them.
We exited the equipment room and bumped into Andrea Sanders, a police aide lead.
Police aides patrol campus, assist officers and generally help out with some of the mundane but critical tasks that keep the entire department running smoothly, Andrea said.
The UAPD station is self-contained, much like larger police departments or military bases.
""A lot of agencies are set up just like us, but much larger in scale,"" Alvarez said. UAPD's goal is to be able to provide the highest level of service to university visitors, which necessitates the amount of workers that UAPD employs.
""Without each one of these roles, it would be very difficult to do what we do each day,"" said Alvarez.
While many students may see UAPD on routine patrols, Alvarez wants people to know that there is a whole force of officers and employees that work behind the scenes to ensure that the safety of every campus visitor is of the utmost concern.
""Whatever we do we're doing the best way we can. I think that's something to be proud of.""