A Brief History of the Western Washington University Police Department
Bellingham Normal School (Old Main) hires its first security officer. The officer’s only duties are to start a fire in the boiler room for heat, and to lock and unlock doors.
The WWU Safety and Security Department implements a student patrol force to augment the full-time Security Marshalls (originally Student Security Officers). The student patrol unit eventually morphs into the Public Safety Assistants (Greencoats) of today.
WWU assigns 33 student positions with walking rounds of WWU dorms and academic areas on North Campus, Middle Campus, and Ridgeway. Another single position is dedicated to Old Main, and a mobile Roving Patrol patrols the entire campus. Supervised by a full-time staff of 9 Marshalls, these student officers are responsible for security checks, locking and unlocking buildings, and providing miscellaneous services to the campus community.
Following a series of sexual assaults on and near campus, the Western Washington State College Safety and Security Department is enhanced – job titles are brought into line with state personnel guidelines: Marshalls become Security Officers, Sergeants, Lieutenants, and a student Escort Service is implemented. Student Security Officers are outfitted in green uniform jackets, inspiring their new nickname, Greencoats.
Through RCW 28B.10.550, the Washington State Legislature approves WA State universities to create their own fully sworn police departments. In December, the president of Western Washington State College exercises his authority and commissions the then full-time security staff as duly sworn peace officers, thereby creating an unarmed law enforcement department. Like all commissioned police, officers attend the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Academy. By the end of the month the first felony arrest, a burglar, was made by a WWUPD Sergeant.
A convicted felon is spotted prowling cars on campus, leading to a chase and stabbing of a city police canine. WWUPD officers and command staff lobby to arm their officers.
Following a series of high-profile crimes in and around campus, the department police officers are finally armed.
The Department operates 24 hours per day, year-round and currently employs 15 full-time commissioned police officers, 6 dispatchers and Clery/Records personnel. We are in the process of becoming accredited and hold ourselves to the highest standards and follow best practices for law enforcement. Many WWU officers and dispatchers either hold a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, sociology, psychology, community relations or other public service-related fields.
The department continues to focus on professionalism and is showing a tangible commitment towards diversity in its ranks, including top administrative positions. Beginning in the fall of 2020, the department will begin a pilot program with Body-worn cameras, therefore increasing accountability and transparency.