UNCC works to remain proactive against on campus threats

by: Tenikka Smith Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is urging police departments to improve training and equipment for officers in response to recent gun attacks across the country.

Three years ago, University of North Carolina at Charlotte police created controversy when it took major steps to boost safety.

Jeff Baker joined the UNC police force in 2009. He's spent the last two-and-a-half years as chief. A former CMPD captain, he came armed with new strategies to improve safety on campus.

Three years ago, he created a 12-member SWAT team who train twice a month equipped with assault rifles.

"We also focus on evacuation, extraction exercises, (and) negotiations," Baker said.

It was a controversial move that caught attention from around the world. Some critics said it was excessive.

"The world BBC did an interview with me and they couldn't even believe we were building up and cross-training officers in SWAT techniques," said Baker.

Baker also led the charge to get the university's first mobile command unit. It has wireless communication, a strategy room and can be used to monitor threats and dispatch officers. A mobile medical unit was added to the fleet this year.

Last year, the campus police began testing out an app that shows 3D maps of every campus building, which allows officers to safely evacuate people, pinpoint the location of officers and zero in on potential threats.

Deadly shootings like the one that unfolded at a Nevada middle school this week and at the Washington, D.C., Navy yard last month, prompted Holder to urge police departments across the country to make sure officers on the front lines have the training and equipment to respond to potential attacks.

Baker said it's his goal to keep the campus safe and the department ahead of the curve.

"Knowing all these things going on at these other schools it's nice to know our schools are taking steps to make sure those other things don't happen here," student Rad Crowell said.

UNCC also recently launched an emergency management webpage where students and staff can sign up for text alerts and find emergency plans for a number of situations including how to respond if a gunman is threatening the campus.

For more on UNCC emergency management, click here.