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Leeds, Atlanta exchange

If Teresa Crocker is tired, it’s understandable, and not only because she saw Rod Stewart in concert the evening before. It’s a Wednesday, and she only arrived in Britain the previous Thursday – 34 hours without sleep. Since then she has been keeping to one half of an international exchange for heads of security.
We’re sitting beside a window on the second floor of University House, in the middle of the University of Leeds campus. Outside, the hubbub of hundreds of students. It’s freshers’ week, and stalls are trying to part newly-arrived teenagers from their money. Where else would a Socialist Workers table, asking passers-by, ‘are you a socialist?’ be next to a stand manned by two young people in khaki, for the Officers Training Unit?
Teresa Crocker is chief of police at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Part of her visit so far has been of the tourist sort, to York Minster, for example – ‘it’s just absolutely beautiful’ – but most is practical. Take a deep breath before you read her schedule. She was officially welcomed by Malcolm Dawson, the security operations manager she hosted the month before in Atlanta, and Alan Cain, Leeds head of security. She toured the 110-acre campus. On Saturday Malcolm accompanied her to Elland Road, to watch Leeds United play Burnley at soccer, or rather to observe the West Yorkshire Police operation from the silver command centre. Sunday, another tour of campus, and watching the second evening of Operation Walksafe. A Professional Security cover story as long ago as 2000, that op is ten nights of joint police and university security patrolling on the main roads used by students into and out of the city centre, to guard the newcomers against theft and assault. Monday, a tour of the Royal Armouries, the Leeds city centre museum, a past venue for a Security Industry Authority conference, readers may remember. Tuesday, Malcolm took her to York University, as the guest of head of security Phil Foster. Before Professional Security met her over lunch, she attended a West Yorkshire Police presentation on counter-terrorism and – even more to the point for unis – radicalisation and de-radicalisation. After lunch, she’s touring mosques with a policewoman. Next day, to the University of Durham; the host there Roy Smith, deputy head of security. Friday, Malcolm will accompany her to Wakefield to witness police training (including for public order, for example during campus protests). Saturday morning, to the airport.
It’s asking a lot, of Teresa and indeed her hosts, and it’s a mirror of what Malcolm did as a guest of Teresa’s at Georgia Tech weeks before. To recap from August’s Professional Security, the UK-based Association of University Chief Security Officers (AUCSO) and the US-based International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) have run an exchange programme. UK and US uni heads of security applied, and a joint UK-US panel picked Malcolm and Teresa.
What then are her impressions? UK and US campuses are doing the same things. She says: “It’s all about crime prevention, it’s all about being safe, not being out at three in the morning by yourself, walking down a dark road. I really think the message is the same; the only difference that I see is that our campus is obviously bigger, and we are armed.” Teresa is carrying her phone in a pocket on her belt; the Georgia Tech officer carries 35 pounds of kit around the waist – gun, handcuffs, short baton, and bullets. As police, and indeed as the US association’s name suggests, the US officers are more about law enforcement. With more powers comes more expectations.
What of guns – given that most UK views of America come from Hollywood, of cops in shoot-outs, and the TV news, that makes much of any mass shooting tragedy? Teresa says: “We don’t pull out our gun every day and shoot every day. You can go through your whole career and not have to draw your weapon. Then there are other times when you are going to take action. Most people retire and have never had to shoot anybody. They have never come close to having to shoot anybody.”
What then of her everyday job? “Problem solving,” she replies. “There are always issues on campus that need your attention, and it can be anything from a counselling issue with a student that needs to see somebody in counselling, to working with the city [police] and the FBI on a case. Day to day, everything. Meetings, doing planning for [American] football, for other events, it can be anything and everything.” Professional Security suggests that at Atlanta, or at Leeds – outside, someone has started drumming – and any campus, all human life is there? Teresa says: “The way we try to explain it to a new officer, we have the same problems on campus as in the city of Atlanta. We don’t have the magnitude of problems that they have in the city of Atlanta, and the reason for that I think is that we are very vigilant, our officers are out there 24-7, they are visible, they make contact with people, they make sure that people that aren’t supposed to be on campus, aren’t on campus. They have a relationship with students, so that students feel confident and that they feel that they are being protected.” And again, from the September issue of Professional Security, that featured the official opening of the new Leeds security office on Woodhouse Lane, the Leeds security force does much the same; patrolling, and responding to alarms, protecting students, staff and visitors – perhaps even from their own youthful folly?! – so that they go on to adult life. Or as Teresa puts it: “I look at it like this; I really believe Georgia Tech brings the best minds in the world to that campus, and the people that walk out there, they might be some kid, that you have helped, that has a cure for cancer. Maybe this kid is that person. So every kid on that campus is important to me.” Again, it’s about protecting, so that the student can be successful.
Teresa has 83 officers, and a civilian staff of 20. Leeds has a dog patrol; Georgia Tech too has canines, but whereas Leeds’ is for crime prevention, Georgia Tech’s do patrols but are also used for bomb checks, at stadium events. While the Atlanta security set-up has more people and more resources than Leeds, to cover fewer students, Georgia Tech does have a sports set-up that dwarfs British campuses or indeed most Premier League clubs. Georgia Tech has a 49,000-seater stadium for ‘football’ games; besides the 11,000-seater basketball and 4000-seater baseball arenas. Student sport in America is a big deal that has to be seen to be believed. Malcolm describes later how he saw motor touring homes parked beside the stadium, days before a Georgia Tech game. Given the risk of shootings, Georgia Tech police and uniformed stewards have to be diligent on safety. That said, Teresa takes care to say that Malcolm does an outstanding job – unlike her, he has student housing (halls of residence) off campus, or ‘not on his footprint’ to use an Americanism. That calls for partnership work between Security and the uni’s housing department.
Asked about resilience, whether it’s a idea in vogue in the States, she answers: “We call it risk management. We have done things throughout the university, not only the police department, to make sure that we can carry on.” Though Teresa did not mention the 1996 Olympics there, readers might recall the Games went on despite a bomb. She speaks also of ‘lessons learned’ from other US universities. Besides shootings, lessons might be from the Hurricane Katrina floods in New Orleans; and other extreme weather. Atlanta is not used to winter storms, but they might happen, as might a tornado. She spoke once more in terms of safety. It might be addressed by lighting; access control; and CCTV, and attending to the number of officers needed on the campus, besides being prepared for the risk of an active shooter – ‘the number one thing in the US that most campuses have concerns about and have trained for’. Number two is the weather, something none of us can control, but we can be ready for it. Do you have business continuity plans, have ready – off site if necessary – the IT and other things you need to operate the week or month after. To sum up, then, America and Britain can learn from each other. Yes, America has the wealth of equipment – in their patrol cars Georgia Tech have computers so that they don’t have to call dispatch to run a check on a licence number plate. The Boston Marathon bomb and the aftermath at the MIT campus, that saw an officer killed, also saw a campus alert system working. Likewise at Georgia Tech – it’s required by federal law – the university will notify students and staff of anything urgent, by email, text or even loudspeakers. “We only use the loudspeakers if we want a student to take action, because we don’t want them to get so disenfranchised with the system that they ignore it; so we only use it when we have to.” A final reminder of what can be at stake in American campus security.

Malcolm Dawson is walking outside the Georgia Tech stadium in downtown Atlanta. You can hear, and then see on a stage, a band play Pinball Wizard. It’s busy, but relaxed, before a game. It’s hot; men are in shorts. Malcolm is being escorted; presidential-style, he jokes later, because he has recorded this snatch of his time in Atlanta on his iPad, and is playing it in his Leeds office. He’s having a cup of tea with Professional Security – he makes it himself, in proper mugs, from a kettle that sits next to, would you believe, copies of Professional Security. (They were there too during the August official opening of the security office, so evidently were not just on show on the day!?) Mal’s catching up on work while Teresa is going on a tour of mosques. Like Teresa, he did the touristy things in Atlanta; the home of Coca-Cola, and CNN. Malcolm talked Professional Security through a slide show of his exchange visit – though you can hear more, when he speaks at the AUCSO 2014 conference at Roehampton in April. Malcolm plainly appreciated the goodwill of his hosts – for instance, the Georgia Tech police department rolled out their equipment for a demo – bicycles, motorcycles, Segways, patrol cars, a criminal investigation truck that allows for fingerprint-taking and photographing at a crime scene; and ‘Skycop’, a deployable dome camera on a pole that can rise to 18 feet, to go into a crime hot-spot area. He went on a firing range with a Glock pistol and has the footage to prove he was on target, though he hasn’t shot for 30 years. That band playing a song by The Who is a clue; Britain and the US share culture. For instance, we each take sport seriously. Malcolm attended an American football game of the Atlanta Falcons, hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars (who may be moving to Wembley, as their owner also owns Fulham Football Club?). Malcolm – a former policeman, 22 years at Leeds University – is a vice-president of York City FC.
Malcolm’s week in Atlanta sounded as hectic and varied as Teresa’s in Yorkshire. One afternoon for instance he attended a ‘Metro campus taskforce meeting’ of some 50 chiefs of police, hosted by Georgia Tech and – at 15 seconds’ notice, he recalls with a smile – was asked to speak. For those of you that think the US is more anti-CCTV than the UK, think again – Malcolm visited the Atlanta municipal CCTV control room handling more than 2000 cameras. Though things in America are bigger, Malcolm like Teresa found similarities between the two campuses’ security ops. The same sorts of technology, methods and people dealing with the same sort of problems – theft of bicycles, sneak-in burglaries, occasional assaults. Teresa and Mal have the same goals. They even classify crimes in much the same way.
And isn’t that the point of an exchange? At the risk of sounding corny, building bridges of friendship between people, a reminder that we are alike? Malcolm thanks the AUCSO organisers of the exchange – Bernadette Duncan, the association chief, chairman Roger Duncan at Sussex University, and Ray Wheatley at Dublin. True, it’s hard to put a value on the exchange – yet can you not say the same of private security? Malcolm sums up: “From my visit to Atlanta and receiving the superb hospitality that I did, together with a very in-depth programme of work, and then me reciprocating it in the UK for her – it’s very clearly apparent that we have formed a very strong bond with one another which will be good for continuous co-operation if ever needed.”

Pictured: Malcolm Dawson and Teresa Crocker at University House, University of Leeds


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