The death of George Floyd shocked the conscience of individuals and communities across our country and the world. The acts of the four former Minneapolis police officers were wrong and lacked a commitment to the sanctity of life principle of the law enforcement profession. George Floyd’s death was both avoidable and criminal in nature.
As I watched the video, I felt a range of emotions – anger, disgust and sadness. I asked myself why some police officers continue to engage in behaviors that violate human decency, devalue human life, and contradict the ethos of our profession? While I have no answers, it caused me great pain to see the damage these incidents inflict on so many. The fact this heinous act was committed by those who wear a uniform and badge similar to mine only adds to my sorrow. The ripple effect is impossible to calculate, yet we can clearly see that its reach is far and wide.
Over the past two weeks, I have reflected on Clemson University Police Department’s (CUPD) mission “to protect and serve the Clemson University community while enhancing safety, reducing risk, and preventing harm” and thought about ways our department can lead change. To achieve our mission, we must continuously assess our operations, reflect upon local and national events, and strive for the highest standards in community engagement, training, supervision and accountability. Our goal is to be a leader in our profession by being innovative, forward-thinking and proactive in our search for creative solutions.
We are certainly in challenging times, but I am hopeful. I am confident that by working together, we can overcome challenges and make needed changes. It will require us to listen more than we talk, be genuine in our actions and be authentic in our desire for change. I am not perfect and will likely make mistakes. However, I am passionate about your safety, well-being, and Clemson experience. It is in that spirit I’d like to describe some of the steps taken by CUPD I believe enhance safety and reduce the likelihood of harm.
As an organization that honors and respects the principles of sanctity of life, procedural justice, diversity, and inclusion, we invest heavily in training to minimize use of force incidents and support interpersonal communication, de-escalation, peer intervention and personal accountability. We reinforce those principles and training through policy and procedure.
- In 2019, the CUPD was introduced to a peer intervention program developed within the New Orleans Police Department. Through classroom instruction, social science, and realistic scenario-based exercises, Ethical Policing Is Courageous (EPIC) teaches officers skills in how to identify and intervene in other’s conduct. All officers in CUPD have been introduced to the EPIC model and understand how it can be applied to achieve the following positive outcomes: community safety, officer safety and job satisfaction. EPIC represents a shift in the police culture and helps agencies achieve high-quality policing. Recently, CUPD partnered with Clemson’s Criminal Justice Department to apply for a National Institute of Justice grant to train and research the impacts of EPIC in mid-size law enforcement agencies. If we are awarded the grant, it will allow us to share the model with law enforcement agencies across the Upstate of South Carolina helping to spread this active bystandership model, and establishing CUPD as a Center of Excellence for this training in the Upstate.
- Through a collaboration with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), CUPD has provided many officers with Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training. The benefits of CIT training are: officers have additional tools to perform their jobs safely and effectively when dealing with mental or emotional crises; allows officers to stay focused on crime prevention and response; reduces arrests of people with mental illness; and increases the likelihood that individuals suffering with mental illness will receive the help they need. Our goal is to have 100% of our officers and communication specialists trained in CIT. Additionally, CUPD was awarded a Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance to develop a regional strategic plan addressing the criminal justice system response to mental crisis which includes CIT training for our regional partners, as well as initial and refresher instruction for CUPD officers.
- In 2018, CUPD implemented a nationally recognized de-escalation program. The Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics (ICAT) program instructs officers how to respond to volatile situations when individuals are behaving erratically, and often dangerously, but do not possess a firearm. It teaches skills in decision-making, crisis recognition and response, tactical communication and safety tactics. Clemson University, City of Clemson and Easley Police Departments partnered to create a cadre of ICAT training officers. After the train-the-trainer program was completed, the agencies coordinated to train all personnel. Since the initial classes, the police departments have partnered further to develop a pre-academy for all recruit officers. ICAT is a core part of the curriculum for new officers and CUPD includes components of the process in its annual in-service education and training courses.
- Our Use of Force policies are regularly reviewed with our officers. There is initial training, annual in-service review and periodic roll call training. In addition, regular training bulletins on the use of force provides officers the opportunity to assess and discuss information about events that occur around the country. This policy is based on the principles of sanctity of life, de-escalation and proportionality. It teaches officers decision-making skills based on a range of viable options. It prohibits tactics that choke or restrict a person’s ability to breathe, defines an officer’s duty to intervene to stop any use of unnecessary or excessive force, and requires officers to report all use of force incidents. Additionally, supervisors are required to respond to incidents where force has been used and to those situations where police use of force is probable. Finally, it requires all use of force reports go through a multi-layer review to evaluate policy compliance and training effectiveness. If after review, the actions are found to fall outside of policy or violate the Department’s values, the Chief of Police will order an internal investigation.
- Additionally, CUPD implemented body-worn cameras in 2016 to increase accountability, transparency, and improve trust and legitimacy. Through monthly review of body camera video by supervisors and commanders, we assess officer performance, policy compliance and training. Further, we identify and recognize officers who display our values during their performance, and correct internal agency issues when required.
We understand the only way CUPD can be successful and achieve our goal of providing a safe campus for all students, faculty, and staff is to build strong and trusting relationships with all members of the Clemson University community.
- We work with our partners across campus to enhance communication, seek input and provide opportunities to engage. We invite members of the campus community to participate in our hiring and promotion processes, provide input on policy and procedures and share their wisdom on issues needing clarity and perspective.
- We have liaison programs with underrepresented and underserved communities to maximize the opportunity for all voices to be heard. Likewise, we proactively reach out to student, faculty and staff organizations to share and receive information important to our stakeholders. We are encouraged by the progress and the early rewards have been plentiful.
- We train our officers about explicit and implicit bias and the importance of understanding differences. We utilize internal and external subject matter experts to provide instruction and education in these critical areas as part of our annual in-service training programs. In 2019, we partnered with the Division of Inclusion and Equity and the Gantt Multicultural Center to provide training opportunities.
- Additionally, senior level officers have attended instructional programs sponsored by the Racial Equity Institute and Clemson’s Connect for Inclusion. We will continue to use these instructional seminars to provide our staff with opportunities to exchange ideas and engage with our partners across campus.
This is just a snapshot of the initiatives underway in CUPD to create strong relationships, reduce risk, and provide a safe environment for everyone. I hope this overview illustrates the effort and energy we devote to building a strong partnership with our campus community grounded in trust, legitimacy and mutual respect. This ultimately leads to an environment of safety and security for us all.
As an organization constantly seeking excellence, we relentlessly search for better ways to be of service to the community. Which means that our policies, procedures and practices are constantly evolving as new and improved information is identified. If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions to assist us achieve our mission, please contact me. I believe that separate and apart, we will likely struggle and only hope for change. But together, we can be bold, ambitious, learn and grow and be champions of change. For my part, I choose the latter, and I hope each of you will too.
Gregory G. Mullen
Associate Vice President for Public Safety | Chief of Police