Although campus is largely empty following the suspension of in-person classes for the remainder of the semester, the Marquette University Police Department is continuing its work around campus and its surrounding neighborhoods during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The department is taking a variety of precautionary measures during this time, MUPD assistant chief Jeff Kranz said.
He said one of the biggest differences is that the department is no longer sending officers to locations in response to calls regarding incidents that are not in-progress and that officers have very limited ability to investigate. Kranz said examples of these instances would be retail theft for an item of small value when no one saw the suspect, or a broken car window, when the victim does not know who was responsible but needs a police report for insurance purposes. In those situations, police reports are filed over the phone rather than in person. Before the pandemic, MUPD would send a squad to the location for every call to the station, Kranz said.
While speaking over the phone to individuals reporting a crime, if an officer believes the situation could benefit from further investigation, they can contact the shift commander to send an officer to the location, Kranz said.
Additionally, the department schedule now has a team of people working from home at all times, making phone calls and receiving phone reports. Kranz said the purpose is to always keep a team at home and a team on the street in case any officers were to come in contact with the coronavirus and need to be quarantined. He said the schedule of which officers stay home and which come into work alternates.
MUPD is also taking social distancing precautions in the department.
Under normal circumstances, at the beginning of each shift, MUPD employees report to a roll call room, where everyone discusses information such as what happened during previous shifts, training tips and crime trends, Kranz said. However, now officers have a new roll call procedure. Everyone meets in the parking garage in the open air, Kranz said. He said everyone stands with a car between them, and no two officers ride in the same squad car at one time.
“We try to maintain that social distance to make sure that we’re safe even amongst each other,” MUPD sergeant Michael Wichgers said.
While the department has reduced contact with Marquette students, faculty and staff, as most are not on campus during this time, MUPD remains involved in the neighborhoods surrounding campus, Kranz said.
“Over the past five years of us being a police department, the neighborhoods have become very dependent on our policing,” Kranz said. “So we’re still having the same level of contact surrounding campus and in the neighborhoods in and around campus. They’re still calling us for service.”
While most students, faculty and staff are currently off campus, the university is continuing to work with MUPD.
“Just as we are with all departments and units across campus, the university will continue to provide resources to MUPD so that our officers have the health, mental health, wellness and spiritual support services they need during these challenging times,” university spokesperson Chris Stolarski said in an email.
Kranz said he is very proud of the MUPD staff, as policing during this time is a “huge challenge.”
“Let’s face it, in policing, while we can try and create an environment where we have social distancing, policing just doesn’t allow for social distancing sometimes,” Kranz said. “When you have to arrest somebody, you have to pat them down. You have to put them in a car with you to convey them to jail. … Rendering first aid to somebody, you have to get face to face with them.”
Wichgers said he has found it extremely important to lead with a positive attitude and to display confidence for other officers.
“For me, I try to make sure first and foremost that my staff that work for me have the tools they need. … I think everybody is adjusting to this,” Wichgers said. “How do you prepare for this? And I think that staying positive, having a good attitude is just really key right now. Motivation is very important to me.”
As the future of how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect Marquette and Milwaukee remains uncertain, Kranz said MUPD continues to take precautions and do the best it can.
“It’s like ‘Groundhog Day,’ to be quite honest with you,” Kranz said. “We’re just taking it day by day and doing our best to keep our staff safe, and in turn … our staff is doing their best to keep the Marquette community and surrounding neighborhoods safe. But there’s no playbook for this. And I wish I knew when the end was coming, but I don’t.”
This story was written by Kelli Arseneau. She can be reached at email@example.com.