January 25, 2012 — The University of Virginia Police Department marked its accreditation and honored three of its own Thursday during a luncheon at Alumni Hall.
The University Police Department received formal accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies – or CALEA – described by Chief Michael Gibson as the "gold standard" in police certification. Craig Hartley Jr., deputy director and chief of staff of the commission, presented Gibson the department's certification at the luncheon.
"This is a voluntary process that opens us up to constant assessment of practices," Gibson said. The certification demonstrates, he said, that "we are staying on the cutting edge of law enforcement and following best practices."
He added, "It is easy to write something into policy and then fall behind. CALEA is a process that makes you stay on top of things."
Gibson said the department undergoes annual assessments, procedural audits and ride-alongs from the commission's reviewers.
Hartley praised the department for its work.
"This is a dedicated police department filled with people who care," he said. "They make sure the students get the safety they deserve."
His remarks echoed those of Allen Groves, associate vice president and dean of students, who also spoke at the luncheon.
"The University of Virginia and the surrounding Grounds require a different kind of policing," Groves told the assembled officers. "You are dealing with students who are transitioning from children to adults. You hold them accountable, but you also help them learn. I am so impressed and greatly appreciative of the way you engage the students."
Groves said the police officers are willing to participate in the student self-governance processes and approach the students with a high degree of professionalism. There is a great deal of candor and trust between his office and the police department, a relationship which he said is beneficial for U.Va.
The department also honored three of its own – Police Sgt. Sandra Hufford, Police Officer George Viera and former Security Sgt. Ray-Mond Robinson – presenting them with medals for their attempts at saving lives.
Hufford's quick action saved the life of now-former University Police Officer Joseph Thacker, who was choking on a piece of food.
Robinson, who worked as a security shift supervisor at the University Medical Center, pulled a woman back from the railing of the top level of the Lee Street garage when she was attempting suicide.
Viera was first on the scene after a student had fallen off the roof of a building, and he immediately started administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which kept a faint heartbeat going. The student later died at the Medical Center.
Dr. William Brady, a professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine, praised Viera for his diligence and dedication, even after the emergency responders believed there was no hope for the student.
"The best chance was given to the patient," Brady said. "That is what we try to do, give the patient the best chance. These people attempted to save lives and that is appreciated in the hospital and in the community."
Brady praised the police and security officers, who, he said, are frequently the first on the scene.
"They have a willingness to take on the responsibility and the ability to think clearly in times of stress," he said.
The ceremony opened and closed with the presentation of the colors from the U.Va. ROTC Color Guard and prayers from Chaplin Eric Light from the Judge Advocate General School.