Community involvement is essential at the Wilkes-Barre campus Police and public safety

LEHMAN, Pa. — Penn State Wilkes-Barre Police and Public Safety is committed to ensuring the safety of everyone on campus, whether students, faculty, staff or visitors.

Campus police officers are trained in many skills and responses and are sworn police officers who have been sworn to uphold the United States Constitution, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and local laws. Trained officers cover all shifts during the week while classes are in session.

Dale Osenbach is District Commander for University Police and Public Safety for Penn State’s Eastern District. He oversees policing and public safety at Penn State Wilkes-Barre and several other campuses.

“Our police department has undergone centralization and restructuring over the past five to seven years,” Osenbach explained. “Seven years ago, we had a chief and security guards. After centralizing, we decided to go with sworn police at every campus location.

Campus police officers are certified by the Municipal Police Officer Education and Training Commission (MPOETC) and receive extensive training for their roles. After officers complete their initial training at the police academy, they undergo additional training on Law 120 each year.

“In addition to that, at Penn State we undergo annual training in use of force, firearms, defensive tactics, first aid, CPR and more,” Osenbach said. “We have developed a training schedule and throughout the year, agents have specific training to complete each month.”

He noted that mental health training is an important part of what officers learn.

“We’ve transitioned to using an online community platform that enhances our inclusive diversity and mental health trainings,” Osenbach said.

In addition to responding to reported crimes and conducting investigations, campus officers respond to medical emergencies and assist students, faculty, and staff during lockdowns, vehicle starts, and more.

“The role of our officers is to be community-oriented police officers,” Osenbach said. “We expect all of our agents to be involved in the community of each campus and to get to know the faculty, staff and students there. This allows them to serve as a resource when someone in our community needs help.

To foster the relationship between police officers and the campus community, Police & Public Safety offers events, such as “Coffee with a Cop”, intended to be gatherings where people can ask questions and discuss current affairs with police while the police get to know members of the campus community.

The department also runs educational programs on topics such as active aggressor situations, sexual assault, and an overview of police departments and their functions.

One of these educational programs was the Campus Safety Summit place in November. The event introduced faculty and staff to Penn State Wilkes-Barre safety and security personnel and also highlighted resources needed for incidents and emergencies that may occur on campus.

Presenters at the safety summit included law enforcement and public safety officials and the Director of Business Services and Pandemic Safety Officer at Penn State Wilkes-Barre. University Park representatives included the Director of Emergency Management and the Regional Environmental Health and Safety Coordinator.

At the security summit, Osenbach shared details of the new campus police services office, which is slated to open in February in a modular unit located near the water treatment facilities across from the science building.

The new office provides a larger space that includes a patrol room, evidence room, case management room and interview room. It will also have video surveillance and electronic access required for accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), which University Police seek on all campuses.

“The addition of the interview room is a critical change that I find important to our work,” Osenbach said. “We will now have a designated quiet area to interview victims of sexual assault, knowing that these experiences are traumatic and require our support and resources.”

In another change for all-campus policing, all campus police officers began to be equipped with body-worn cameras in May.

Osenbach said the response to the cameras has been very positive and that body-worn cameras “increase officers’ self-accountability, rather than accountability to supervisors.”

“I think the cameras have been fantastic,” he said. “They increase our level of transparency and accountability within the department and our community.”

To learn more about policing and public safety at Penn State Wilkes-Barre, visit their webpage.

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