I interviewed the Commander of The University of Pittsburgh’s police department. It was supposed to go in the school paper, but unfortunately, I sent my chief editor the wrong file, and so since we went to press, he had to write his own and take my name off it. After all the work I did, interviewing, transcribing the interview, and writing the profile piece. That made me sad. Well, I guess a lot of life is doing a lot of work and receiving no fruit for it. Life lesson to share.
Anyway, here’s the profile!
Since Chief Blasko retired, Commander Kathy Schreiber has taken over his responsibilities until a new Chief is hired.
“I’m the Regional Commander for The University of Pittsburgh police department,” Commander Schreiber began. “That includes all the regional campuses, so my role really originates from Oakland. I’ve been a commander in Oakland for many years. But what I now do is I oversee all of the regional police departments, Greensburg, Johnstown, Bradford, Titusville. And I oversee their operations, work with their chief, so that we can bring all of the police departments under kinda one umbrella, with respect to policies, with respect to types of equipment that we use, and with respect to training.”
When asked if anything has changed since Blasko left, she said, “No. Nothing has changed now. I mean we’re always looking at making improvements and making changes. Upgrade of equipment, upgrade of police vehicles, scheduling the training. Dale Blasko did a very good job while he was here. But the department is continuing to function as it was.”
There have been no policy changes, either. One of the focuses has been finding a new police chief. “We are currently in search mode for a new police chief,” Commander Schreiber said. “It’s a possibility that there could be a chief named sometime in January.”
If there is no replacement then, she said, “Well I’ll keep doing what I’m doing now. I mean I’ll keep overseeing the department until the chief comes in. And then given that, the chief is going to supervise his officers or her officers. And I’ll still be here. I’m not here full-time. I’m here because I travel to the other regional campuses. I’m not here all the time. But while we have a vacancy for chief, I’m primarily staying here while traveling.
And to go to all the regional campuses, that means she has to do a lot of driving. “It’s a really long drive to Bradford. It’s a really long drive,” she says, then laughs. “You know I’m not going there weekly. With the regional campuses it’s generally monthly. Sometimes it’s a little bit longer depending upon what’s going on. I’m here most of the time. But while we have a vacancy for the chief, I’m going to be here all the time.”
And if there is ever a crisis, she said, “I’ll be contacted, and naturally we contact the emergency executive, who is President Smith. And you know, we work with the crisis.” A crisis, of course, is unpredictable, and the best thing is to be prepared. “No, you can’t, you can’t predict a crisis,” Commander Schreiber said. “So what we do is that we make sure we have enough staffing. That we have good policies in place. That we have adequate staffing. That the officers are trained to respond. Although most of what they’re doing is very service-oriented. 98% of the time, it’s all service calls here. But we want to make sure that the officers are prepared in the event of an emergency. And I believe that they are.
“In addition to that, in addition to having very good police officers here, we have really good students here. And what’s very interesting is that, several months ago, we hired a new supervisor to work the night turn shift. And one of his comments after a couple of months was, that, being out here in the afternoon and the early morning hours, he said, ‘Students here, are here to learn, they are really great students. They seem to be very focused and they want to be here and they want to learn all they can.’ And that says a lot for this campus.
“It’s a really good campus.”
She has been in this position, she said, “For four years now. We’ve had an increase in staffing, you know, some equipment changes, training changes, new policy manual. There’s a lot that’s been accomplished, and I credit the old chief for getting those things done.”
She has had a ton of experience in her field over the many years of her career. “My undergraduate degree was in Criminology, from IUP. And then my master’s degree was through Pitt’s law school. Master’s in Studies of Law. So I’ve really been in the field for many years, in different capacities. You know, first as a patrol officer, and then in investigations, and then investigations supervisor, and then as a commander, with Oakland in operations in administration. This job was created because the police officers on all of Pitt’s campuses are—it’s called F120 Certified—they’re certified as municipal police officers. Where do you live?
“Monroeville,” I replied.
“We have the same powers and responsibilities as Monroeville police have. We just work for a college. I think there are only four colleges in Pennsylvania that the police are certified through the state of Pennsylvania as municipal officers. And The University of Pittsburgh is one of them. Pitt is one, Penn State is one. So as such, we’re all, no matter what campus we’re on, we’re all F120 police working for The University of Pittsburgh. We’re all under one umbrella.”
Pitt students should feel proud that their police officers are certified as municipal officers, because of the extra training they must go through to achieve that. “We require a four year degree first,” Commander Schreiber said. “And we require that the individual has attended a police training academy. That’s generally about five months long. Following that, they have to get certified, so they have to, you know they go to college, they go to the academy, and then they have to take a certification test, and then there are certain things—there’s a psychological and a medical—there’s certain paperwork and things that have to be completely accomplished before Pennsylvania will certify them as police officers.”
If our school is one of the few that has police officers certified as municipal officers, why are the other colleges not certified? “A lot of the other universities,” she said, “they’re Act 501 which is just that they are considered private police—and they have arrest powers and they, you know, they have powers specifically on their campus. But they’re not recognized in the state of Pennsylvania as municipal police officers. You know, as such, we have training mandates that we must meet.
“And often times,” Commander Schreiber said. “The University of Pittsburgh police go above and beyond what is required for training.”