father of a current undergraduate student, Northern Arizona University Police Department
(NAUPD) Officer Joe Tritschler takes his responsibility for ensuring the safety
of university students very seriously. The community relations officer for the
18-officer department, Tritschler spends much of his time traveling across
campus and talking to staff and students about safety. To Tritschler, safety
starts with education.
“The role of
the police department here is obviously to enforce the laws, and to do that in
a quality manner,” Tritschler says. “But, on top of the normal law enforcement
services, we also do a lot of educational programming to help students adapt to
the university setting and understand what they can and can’t do.”
NAUPD meets the toughest law enforcement standards in the world and ranks
among the top police departments in the state, it is not a typical organization.
Being based on campus means that Tritschler and the other officers serve as
both law enforcement and educators.
“We try to
help out as much as we can,” Tritschler says. “We’ll help out with school
projects, give interviews, and grant ride-along requests, because education is
important to us as well as your safety.”
Tritschler explains, officers want to have a constructive influence on students.
“We always want a positive contact,” Tritschler says. “Sometimes, we can’t have
that, but we can still make it as positive as we can under the circumstances.”
goal in mind and flanked by student university safety aides, Tritschler treks all around campus, giving presentations
on topics ranging from the dangers of winter driving – “Don’t go 50 on ice,” he
says – to situations involving active shooters. Tritschler warns his audiences
that while such events are horrific to think about, it is better to be prepared
for them than to pretend they can never happen.
says that he and other officers regularly make trips to the various residence
halls on campus to bring their message about safety to the students.
presentations inside the dorms. We have a hall-watch program, where officers go
out and talk to the students where they live and let them know how they can be
police officer on a college campus, in many ways, is a unique experience for
the officers who work in NAUPD. Tritschler says he finds it enjoyable that he
can both keep students safe and help them learn.
“We want to
try to help them achieve their goals, in terms of an education, but also enable
them to safely experience life along the way,” Tritschler says. “That’s what
it’s all about: helping students enjoy their time here as they learn.”