West Virginia University police officer Jim Enoch keeps a special message tucked away in his office.
It’s not something he often gets a chance to share.
Stashed away in his files is a greeting card from a student he arrested and a letter of support from her parents.
The young woman had used a stolen parking permit and faced a fine and 48 hours in jail. Traumatized by her arrest and unable to call home because of a power outage, Enoch did his best to calm the student. Later, he asked the magistrate to handle her with care and she was let off with just a fine. Still, she worried that the arrest would have long-term consequences for her.
Enoch assured her that her crime would be expunged from her record which brought her great relief, and later turned to gratitude in the form of a personal note. Her parents also expressed gratitude at Enoch’s handling of the situation.
“I kept the card and letter and I always refer back to them,” Enoch said. “It goes back to our philosophy – protect and serve. It’s nice to know you made a difference in someone’s life.”
Officers like Enoch, a captain and veteran of 42 years with the WVU Police, have been making a difference in people’s lives for 50 years.
On Thursday, Oct. 27, the WVU community is invited to a reception to honor the 50-year anniversary. The event starts at 2 p.m. in the lobby of E. Moore Hall.
The tale of the WVU Police includes a host of name and location changes but is more a story of growth – growth in the size of the department to keep up with enrollment gains and facilities expansion, but also consistent improvement in the quality of officer training in keeping with the latest police and campus trends – all in the name of safety.
“Protect and serve” is just the beginning for Bob Roberts, who has been chief for 21 years and a member of the squad for 26. Although campus law officers share the same goals as their city brethren, the nature of a campus job holds crucial differences.
“Our goal is to make this the safest place we can for our students,” Roberts said. “That’s the expectation of the parents who send their kids here and it’s a responsibility we take seriously.”
It shows – on campus and off. Farmers Insurance rated the Morgantown area as one of the “Most Secure Small Metros To Live.” Through outreach on campus and cooperation with city officials, Morgantown City and state police and fire departments and the county’s emergency dispatch system, the WVU campus has been rated as one of the safest major university campuses in the country by Reader’s Digest and others over the years.
The officers frequently meet as a large group to discuss upcoming challenges, such as before every home football game and large scale events like FallFest, the University’s welcome back concert for students. Working with city officials, WVU Police also provided input on a recent town-and-gown campaign to curb malicious fires.
Click below to hear WVU Police Chief Bob Roberts describe the ever-changing landscape of law enforcement on a college campus and at WVU over the last few decades and how the WVU Police Department has evolved.
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“It’s evolved over the years,” Roberts said of the relationship between WVU and local officers. “We work closely with each other and know each other’s names and roles.”
Keeping WVU safe is a 24-hour-day job, which not only requires teamwork but also a unique perspective.
Regardless of the nature of the offense, most perpetrators and victims on college campuses are a diverse group with one common denominator: most are young, impressionable and perhaps at a time in their lives when the right approach to discipline can change the course of their lives or shape their values. In some cases, officers aren’t just stopping a crime, they may be stopping a life from being derailed.
Roberts and other officers recall numerous situations in which judgment and compassion became more important than a citation or arrest.
“I don’t think any of us came into this job for thank yous,” he said. “We came into it to make this the safest place we can?and to help people.”
First steps … literally
Established in 1961 as part of a state code written specifically for WVU, the squad started with four men, called “security officers,” and the chief, Kenneth Johnson, was known as “captain.” The department was housed on WVU’s Downtown Campus and moved several times to various downtown locations.
Click to hear WVU Police Chief Bob Roberts talk about Bill Strader, WVU's second police captain, and the growth of the department that started in the late 1960s.
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At the time, the work was done strictly on foot and mostly at night, as officers mainly monitored buildings and patrolled a campus – centered downtown – with an enrollment of between 13,000 and 14,000.
Although the officers were armed and entrusted with the power to arrest, Roberts described their duties as “more of a night watchman.”
Without the benefit of a central dispatch unit, officers communicated directly with each other via two-way radios, and they kept a logbook with brief summaries of incidents.
Enoch, who worked for the WVU motor pool at the time, volunteered to go through formal Police Academy training and graduated in the 1970s. By the time Enoch joined the squad, it had grown to 12 officers but further growth was just around the corner.
Streakers and sirens
Under Captain William Strader in the 1970s, the department began more formal incident reporting, gained two cars and made modest but steady increases in personnel, particularly after the shootings on the Kent State campus in 1970.
“That definitely impacted our jobs,” Enoch said of Kent State. “There were Vietnam protests and student unrest – not just here but around the country.”
Student demonstrations were frequent in the 60s but seemed to take on a harder, more menacing edge in 70s as the Vietnam war dragged on. WVU’s under-manned Security Police often had to rely on support from the Morgantown City Police.
Things weren’t all grim, though.
Ask Henry Hoxter, who was hired in 1972, about some of his most unusual memories and it won’t take long to get a response.
Click to hear WVU Police officer Jim Enoch describe what the WVU Police Department was like when he joined in 1969 and the experience of keeping the campus safe during the Vietnam campus demonstrations of the 1960s and 70s.
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“Streaking,” he said with a grin.
“There was quite a bit of that. We had some at the Coliseum, some downtown. And [the students] would announce it. They’d say, ‘There’s going to be a streaker at such and such a time.’”
More of a novelty than a threat, Hoxter recalls that even when announced, a streaker was difficult to apprehend.
“I remember seeing one – he had a mask on – and he went right past me. I wasn’t going to chase him because I wasn’t about to catch him?and I certainly didn’t want to tackle a naked man.”
On the move
The 1980s brought a new football stadium – then known as Mountaineer Field – a new hospital – Ruby Memorial – and a burgeoning Evansdale campus. The PRT, which began operation in 1975, linked WVU’s Downtown and Evansdale Campuses, replacing the fleet of buses that had formerly transported students.
Over the years, the police had moved under Student Life and its headquarters shifted from downtown to the Coliseum and to a building near the Evansdale McDonald’s before eventually settling at the current site – the Public Safety Building—in late 1989. In their new digs, they were paired with WVU Parking and were known as the Department of Public Safety, or DPS, officers.
As the WVU squad grew to more than 40, officers began to be assigned to specific areas or duties.
In 1979, WVU hired its first prevention officer in Eugene Lemley. Lemley was charged with engaging students and the WVU community in crime prevention techniques and procedures for handling emergency situations.
Ten years later, Henry Hoxter’s son Brian joined, and, in keeping with the mission of the department, was designated to serve the Downtown Campus residence halls.
Brian said the concept of community policing became popular around the time of his hire and it quickly became part of his mission. Like Lemley, Hoxter realized the importance of providing safety information, particularly young residence hall students.
“Community policing basically means being proactive—teaching the community how to be safe rather than getting a call and reacting to a crime,” Brian said.
Among the programs Brian Hoxter initiated was Operation Lockout, in which a dorm room door found open would be immediately closed and locked, often locking out the student who lived there. The program was designed to keep students more aware of how to prevent crime and basic safety. He also started a program that involved engraving students’ valuables so they could be easily identified if stolen or lost.
Roberts arrived in 1985 and became chief five years later. In a leadership role, he continued to improve crime reporting procedures and moved toward a more standardized form of hiring that included mandatory Police Academy training, a psychological profile and extensive background check.
Another of Roberts’ goals, in line with WVU goals, was to build a more diverse and inclusive staff.
WVU hired its first female officer, Mary Arnould, in 1974 and Roberts continued to seek more qualified females. Of the current 53 officers, eight are women.
Henry Hoxter was one of the first African-Americans to be added to the force. The squad has included several uncle-nephew officers, but Henry and his son Brian are the only father-son duo.
“We have more female officers, more African-American officers, more Hispanic officers than all the other local law enforcement agencies combined,” Roberts said. “We strive to be a diverse staff because we serve a diverse community.”
Click to hear WVU Police officer Jim Enoch talk about the WVU Police Department and how it has grown over the years, particularly under Chief Bob Roberts.
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Roberts has also incorporated specialized officers, including Phil Scott, the retired Morgantown City Police Chief, who was added as manager of investigative services. WVU also has two canine assistants, bicycle patrols, a group of WVU student aids known as cadets and eight dispatchers, who are housed in a communications area within the police station.
Although much of the work has become more specialized, WVU football games require a united approach and stand as one of the most challenging aspects the department deals with.
With a capacity of around 60,000, Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium becomes the biggest city in the state for as many as seven Saturdays in the fall. Policing the venue is a massive effort that includes nearly the entire WVU staff and coordination with local, county and state officers, emergency responders, dispatchers, WVU facilities managers and an independent, paid security staff. In pre-season and pre-game meetings, the teams brainstorm ideas that can make the game experience safer.
“By the time we get to game day, our plans are in place and we know each other and what our responsibilities are,” Roberts said. “It works pretty well, all things considered, but when you’ve got 60,000 people in one place at one time, there’s always that human factor that you can’t plan for.”
To help with safety and prevention, WVU monitors the stadium and surrounding parking lots with video cameras. A group of officers also monitors the crowd on laptop computers from a command center on the second deck of the press box.
“The camera equipment is especially helpful,” Enoch said. “If there’s an incident in a certain section, we can zoom in on it in high definition and record it. We can also get license plates in the parking lot in high def, if needed. We used to watch things occur with binoculars and respond; now we have a visual record.”
Security cameras, which are now incorporated into all WVU buildings along with swipe card readers that help stop illegal entry, are just two of the progressive measures that have helped keep the campus safe.
In the 2000s, WVU incorporated an emergency text messaging system that disburses emergency information to subscribers on their phones and instantly populates the message to each of the 75 digital signage boards around the University. The department uses its website as another public point of contact, offering incident reports, statistics, informational videos, safety tips, and other helpful resources. In addition, department reports and records are all electronically archived.
Click to hear WVU Police Chief Bob Roberts describe the ever-changing landscape of law enforcement on a college campus and at WVU over the last few decades and how the WVU Police Department has evolved.
[ Click to download ]
Outreach continues to be a main focus too. The Police offer self-defense classes in a variety of formats, including PROTECT – Personal Response Options and Tactically Effective Counter Techniques, and MACE – Mace A Criminal Expertly, which are free for female students and staff members. PROTECT is offered through WELLWVU at the WVU Recreation Center or police representatives will provide special classes to dorms, sororities or any group of six or more women.
“It was very well run,” said Heidi Muller, residence hall coordinator at Lincoln Hall said of PROTECT. “Going into it, I was a little nervous – I didn’t want to get hurt – but after I went through it I thought it was very beneficial.”
Muller, who was a resident assistant at Lincoln for three years, said she annually organized a PROTECT class for her students.
“I would put the sign-up sheet out in the morning and by the end of the day it would be filled up,” she said. “They taught us well and the officers were great to work with. If I were to come up in a situation where (self-defense) was needed think I could handle it.”
Police also demonstrate self-defense techniques – called Drop a Cop – annually at events like Diversity Week and in coordination with Sexual Awareness Month.
Annie Williams, a senior from Mannington, has frequently helped coordinate self-defense demonstrations with WVU police officers as a member of WVU Women Against Rape.
“They have been a great bunch of people to work with,” she said of the WVU officers. “They’re fun but they’re very professional and informed about what they’re teaching. You can tell they really want to keep us safe.”
She said PROTECT classes have grown in popularity in her four years at WVU. Seeing the officers in action has given Williams confidence about campus safety.
“When you an officer take someone out with two fingers, you know they’d be able to quell any sort of confrontation at a football game or do what needs to be done to keep the peace,” she said.
WVU Police also regularly provide tips for crime prevention and avoidance before students leave for winter and spring breaks and performs programs such as “Arrive Alive” in which students are given “fatal vision” goggles to simulate intoxication. Officers also regularly give talks on sexual assault, domestic violence, how to respond to emergency situations like shootings and general safety talks also.
“The officers are fun, down-to-earth people but they’re serious when they need to be serious,” Muller said. “They’ve made friends with all my staff and me. It’s very easy to interact with them.”
The tragedy of Sept. 11 and the Virginia Tech shooting prompted the department to be even more diligent in emergency response and emergency communication procedures.
And while the WVU campus and Morgantown community have been relatively free of violent crime, no community is immune to it.
“We’ve really evolved into a police department in all the aspects you can think of,” Roberts said, “with a focus on prevention and being proactive.”
An ever-evolving job
Combating the changes in crimes and human nature requires not only keeping up with, but staying ahead of the latest trends. Since he took over in 1990, Roberts has emphasized training and professional development among the WVU officers.
He also encourages a customer service approach to students and their families. “Finding solutions to situations and making the campus safer are our goals – not writing tickets and making arrests,” he said.
“My favorite part of this job is having the ability to solve problems,” Brian Hoxter said. “You never get up in the morning and say you’re going to arrest someone. You get up in the morning and say, ‘I’m going to solve a problem.’ “
Hoxter’s approach will help the WVU Police Department continue to protect and serve and keep the campus safe in the years to come.
By Dan Shrensky
CONTACT: University Relations/News
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.