Understaffing, Low Pay Strain Oklahoma State U. Police Force

Crimes on rise at campus, but school is short staffed, forcing overworked conditions

During game weekends, some officers are off-duty for just six hours before going back to work, Altman said.

"It's not uncommon at all for our officers to occasionally work 18 to 20 hours a day," he said. "That's a long day."

Despite the long hours his officers work, the police chief doesn't see a problem.

"I don't think we're placing [officers] under undue risk by working them 12 hours. People are awake and working more than eight hours a day anyway. It's not like they sleep 16 hours a day," Robinson said.

Although officers' lives may not be in danger, their family lives can be. The divorce rate for police marriages is higher than that of civilian couples, Robinson said. After working 12 hours and sleeping for eight, officers are left with just a few hours to spend with their families.

To retain officers and limit turnover, the department requires new officers to commit to OSU for at least two years. Officers who are not state certified must commit for three years, he said, to allow for the additional time spent in training.

The contracts are an attempt to curb a rash of departures that have put patrol levels at one of the lowest in years, officials said.

As patrol numbers have gone down, some reported crimes have gone up, according to university crime reports. Robbery, burglary, car theft and arson have all increased since 2004. Sixty burglaries, three car thefts and one robbery occurred on campus in 2005, all increases from the year before.

Altman said while low patrol levels don't necessarily mean more crime, having extra officers on the streets would help deter criminals.

New buildings and security needs at OSU's Athletic Village will stretch the department even further, he said. Campus administrators see the need for more officers and have worked with police officials to get more funds for the department, Robinson said, calling them "tremendously supportive."

But when every university department wants to increase its budget, funds can't be doled out to them all, Robinson said, and police will have to make do for now.

"We do all we can with what we've got," he said.

(C) 2006 Daily O'Collegian via U-WIRE