Medical Care Backed by Police Safety

May 18, 2017

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The main campus of The University of Kansas Health System and the University of Kansas Medical Center is like a city in itself, bustling with some 15,000 people, from physicians and staff to students and, of course, patients and families.

And like any city of this size and diversity, there's a need for protection.

The medical center's police department is no small-town agency. With 156 employees, it operates round-the-clock every day, responding to calls on the main campus and several other properties involving the health system and medical center.

The 41-year-old department includes more than 100 uniformed personnel – 45 of them armed and commissioned officers, as well as 61 noncommissioned security officers. They're supported by staff in communications and other administrative roles.

The goal, said Police Chief Rick Johnson, not only is preventing crime but also making sure the community within and surrounding the region's premier academic medical center feels secure. 

"Our priorities are based on real threats," he said, "but also are directed at reducing fear associated with perception of neighborhood crime and safety."

It's one reason he and his officers are so visible on foot, bikes and cars. Their average response time to an emergency call on the main campus: 90 seconds.

Relationship-building is key. They wear body cameras and provide security training for the community. They also respond to calls for service – 24,633 last year – in which they assist motorists and escort people to their cars at night.

Such efforts are an important factor in the crime rate on the main campus: It's down, remarkably, 17% compared with 15 years ago, despite the health system's tremendous growth.

Five years ago, the department received the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, considered the gold standard in public safety. Less than 1% of college and university police departments have achieved it.

Johnson notes the accreditation was voluntary. "We wanted to prove to ourselves and our community," he said, "we are operating at the highest level of professional standards."

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