How UW-Milwaukee's Chief of Police is Keeping Students Safe

October 2 marked the kick-off of Safety Week on the UW-Milwaukee campus. Members of the UWM Police Department used the week-long event themed, "A Safe Dose of Reality,"  to educate UWM students and staff on topics ranging from self-defense, active shooter training, CPR and defibrillator use. During the first day of Safety Week UW-Milwaukee Chief of Police, Joesph LeMire, had a few minutes to spare and told me what he thinks are the most important ways students can keep themselves and others safe on the UWM Campus.

Why was Safety Week created?

“Now that we have a community policing team, so it’s not just one officer, we go through the year and we put together things we think are important for students. Anything from self defense and  teaching people those kinds of skills to skills in CPR."

How Does It Benefit Students on the UWM Campus?

"This year we have a table that is new and shows people the types of bike locks that people can cut off and what locks are better than others. One big thing we find on campus are stolen bikes, mostly when bikes are left unlocked, but sometimes the locks get cut off. At this new table we demonstrate the best way to lock up your bike and how the locks get cut so people can pick the appropriate lock for their bike, especially if they have an expensive bike. It’s a big theft when someone gets that so we just like to have an opportunity for people to come through.”

What do you want students to do to stay safe while on and off campus?

“What we think is most important is for student to be aware of their surroundings. We want to provide students the environment to participate in those trainings. If I could do one thing everybody, it’s creating awareness. I see it all the time. It’s not just at UWM. It’s at high schools, I see it in my own daughter who is going through school. You see people just throw on headphones and put their head down and are completely unaware of their surroundings."

"If you were to talk to any criminal in the world, most crimes like that are crimes of opportunity. They look for something easy if they are going to steal something. Just keep your head up and pay attention, keep your head up and look at your surroundings. Even if you’re in a group of four or by yourself if you look like you’re confident, you look like you know where you’re going and you’re not obstructing your ears with noise or music, you’re going to be in a safer place. If that is something I could preach to anyone at UWM and anywhere else. We teach that all the time to our officers, situational awareness, so if we could teach that to the public that would be the number one thing.”

Sadly, students woke up to the news of the Las Vegas shooting this morning and a lot of them are asking, “What is my campus doing to keep me safe?” What kind of strategy goes on behind-the-scenes at the UWM Police Department that will keep students safe if a dangerous situation like that were occur on the UWM Campus?

“There are two sides of that. If an incident were to happen, one-how do we notify everybody?  As you see as people started to become aware of what was happening they start to react and think “What do I do, where do I go?” In our active shooter training, it’s more situational awareness. Going into the situation as a police officer, I would look at the ways how am I going to help people get out of here if something were to happen and the general public doesn't’t necessarily think of that. These days they really have to. Let’s say something were to happen, you need to think “where would I go, where would I run, where would I hide, what would I run behind.”

"In the case of the Las Vegas shooting, it looked like someone was shooting from a high level down to an area. But as I look around this area in Spaights Plaza, if that were to happen here, one of the areas I am looking at are these concrete walls. You could get behind the concrete wall and lay flat just to shield yourself or you’re looking to run east, west, north south. But knowing where that place to run is located is important. We tell students, faculty and staff to know your ways to get out. Don’t become a creature of habit and go the same way everyday. Get to know different routes.”

What can UWM Students do in their everyday lives to proactively prevent crime?

“Attending an event like Safety Week is a great start. One of the reasons we started the community team is because police officers are in uniform and carry weapons and it’s a little bit of an intimidating setting. Even when we do Coffee with a Cop, we see that students have a hard time even coming up to get coffee. With these events we try to break down those barriers because what we want from the public is information. Police officers don’t stop crime all by themselves. Police department's stop crime by creating relationships with the community. The public provides us with information that will maybe give us a tip where to go to find the people that commit crimes."

"The more you break down those walls and give people the ability to approach you and share information is how you are going keep communities safe. When you start to not trust police departments or its intimidating enough where you don’t want to give them information then that information flow stops and prevents you from solving crimes and keeping areas safe. That is the biggest thing-we say when you see something, say something. If you feel comfortable acting on a situation and have the training that’s great but actually saying something and giving us information is still doing something. We don’t want you to be intimidated or afraid. We want the trust of the students and the community to come to us and we will act.”

The UW-Milwaukee Police Department will continue educating students throughout the fall semester after the conclusion of Safety Week.

Their Awareness, Knowledge, Action: Self Defense class will be held Oct. 18 in Zealzo Hall in room 171 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and again on Nov. 12 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. During the two-hour self-defense program, attendees will learn individual safety skills that include saftey while travleing by vehicle and awareness involving social media. Participants will also learn about self-defense related to Wisconsin State Statutes and available campus and local resources.

The American Heart Association Family and Friends CPR Course will be in Flicks on Oct. 10 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and again on Nov. 10 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. During this non-certified course, attendants will learn life-saving basics that include Hands-Only CPR, adult AED use and relief of choking in an adult. These skills will be taught in a group environment by using the AHA's research-proven practice-while-watching technique. This research-backed program gives students the most hands-on CPR practice time. 

The UWM Police Department will be providing their Active Shooter training course on Oct. 18 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Bolton Hall in room B46 and again on Nov. 16 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Presented directly by UWM officers, this program will provide guidance to individuals of the UWM community so participants will leave wih the tools, skills and resources necessary to react and survive an active shooter situation. During the two-hour information session, officer's will present videos and describe actions to take when students or staff are in harms way of an active shooter. The goal of the training is to provide a base knowledge of active shooter situations and to keep students safe now and into their future. 

For more information on Safety Week or any of the provided trainings visit the UWM Police Department homepage and don't forget to follow them on Twitter for the latest updates.