Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
July 23, 1999

DPS experts on the job

by Linda Charles
When Loras Jaeger became director of the department of public safety in 1990, he was determined to take a good department and turn it into an exceptional one. Building a strong staff with specialties was one of his goals. Jaeger also set his sights on accreditation for the department.

Today, the department looks much the way Jaeger imagined. It is strong and diverse, with specialists in a variety of areas, such as risk assessment, field operations and electronic investigations. And it is among a select group of law enforcement agencies that are accredited.

The first thing new DPS director Jaeger did was to increase hiring standards, requiring college degrees of all new officers. Most managers now have advanced degrees.

Diffusing dicey situations
Among the specialists on the staff is clinical psychologist Gene Deisinger. He heads the behavioral sciences unit, the only such unit in the area, and is an expert in risk assessment and developing plans to diffuse dicey situations.

Deisinger also has become the local expert in "threat assessment" -- determining the likelihood of a situation escalating into violence. Such situations might involve employees, students or spouses who have threatened another or might harm themselves. Threat assessment includes gathering a variety of information about a subject, including history of violence (one of the best predictors of future violence, though not the only one), psychological and medical history, and family and social background. The assessment also includes reviews of current stress factors that might trigger a violent reaction.

One of the tools the team uses is a computer program, which analyzes cases in a systematic fashion and calculates the potential for escalation to serious violence. After an initial assessment, a management plan is developed to intervene in the situation to reduce the degree of danger. The plan may involve talking to the potential aggressor, referring victims to supportive services, and taking steps to protect victims.

Ready for almost anything
Jaeger says he has carefully blended the expertise of his new hires with the "richness of history" provided by many of the longer-term employees to create a public safety department that is prepared to handle nearly any situation.

Today, the department includes:

  • Special services manager Chuck Cychosz, who is an expert in grant proposals, crime prevention efforts, training initiatives and compliance with the student right-to-know law.
  • Program coordinator John Tinker, who came to DPS after 26 years with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and is an expert in field operations.
  • Safety patrol coordinator Rob Bowers, an expert in "access control," which involves such areas as electric door maintenance and environmental design of buildings and offices to help ensure safety.
  • Lt. Isra Harahap, who has a degree in aerospace engineering and speaks four languages.
  • Officer Angela Hart, who is bilingual in English and Spanish.
  • Officer Joel Swanson, who has voluntarily researched the history of the ISU Department of Public Safety and created a two-volume overview.
  • Lt. Douglas Clabaugh, who is an expert in technical electronic investigations.
  • DPS personnel also are involved in a drug task force that includes personnel from the Ames Police Department, and Story and Boone County sheriffs' offices. DPS officers were tapped for a sexual assault response team that includes various county and city agencies.

    Passing the test
    In 1998, ISU's DPS notched another major accomplishment by receiving accreditation from the Committee on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

    Today Iowa State is the only university in the Big 10 and Big 12 with an accredited law enforcement agency. Only about 25 universities and college agencies (out of about 3,000) are accredited. And of 17,000 city and county law enforcement agencies, only about 400 have been accredited.

    The accreditation process is rigorous, taking about three years to complete, said Jerry Stewart, associate director of public safety. There are 436 "standards" that must be addressed, many requiring the department to have written policies.

    The process includes an extensive self-study process that looks at virtually every aspect of the law enforcement agency -- from organization, management and administration to law enforcement operations and support. The department must produce detailed written plans for handling visiting dignitaries, special events, natural disasters and other situations.

    The process "forces the agency to analyze what it's doing," Stewart pointed out, from use of force to issuing traffic tickets. Equipment must be updated and plans made for inspecting the equipment in the future.

    And since reaccreditation takes place every three years, it requires the department to stay on its toes, update policies and continue to re-examine itself to get ready for the next time.

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