UPD program gives students a glimpse ‘Behind the Badge’

Brenda Perez, Writer

Behind the Badge operates in conjunction with the Dean of Students office, dedicated to giving students on the Texas A&M University — Commerce the correct information regarding police procedures.

Members of the University Police Department, along with members of Commerce Police Department, the Municipal Judge, Fire Chief, and the Justice of the Peace form a panel to answer questions.

Students are encouraged to come, as well as parents, to learn about their rights and their responsibilities, both as students on campus and members of the community. Topics covered include underage drinking, on- or off-campus; drinking on campus, legal or otherwise; and what the students can expect in case of an arrest.  Information on amnesty programs is made available for those who are interested.

Services offered by the UPD that many students may not be aware of are also covered. Starting dead batteries, engraving names on bicycles for better theft protection, and unlocking locked vehicles are just a few services offered.  The university website contains a full list of services offered by the UPD.

“Behind the Badge is also a way for students to form a good relationship with the police officers on and off campus and to understand that there are people behind the badge and they are not just out to get them,” said Donna Spinato, chief of the UPD.

Behind the Badge was started six years ago with the help of then dean Joe Weber and students who wanted to have a better understanding of police procedures and their own rights. Students wanted to be able to ask questions and have them answered correctly from reliable sources.

The question of this program lessening crime does come up. According to Spinato, police officers feel that students will make their own decisions, but it is always better if they have a good relationship with the law enforcement.

The police department is always trying to make life easier for students. A sub-station to the UPD is currently being built in West Hall, with hopes of its grand opening occurring in Spring 2015 to allow students a closer location.

If students see police officers walking around campus or in residence halls it does not always mean something has happened, in some cases it is just community policing. The officers like to know the people on campus.

“Police officers are here to protect, serve and educate while providing a safe and fun learning environment,” Spinato said.