FAQs

The University Police Department, together with Emergency Management, is part of Western Washington University’s Department of Public Safety. Our workforce is proud to represent WWU, and we are dedicated in our efforts to provide fair, equitable, and trusted policing as we keep Western’s campus safe and secure.

Though recent, disturbing events have eroded public trust and heightened scrutiny of how our law enforcement systems work on both national and local levels, Western’s UPD unequivocally stands against racism or discrimination of any kind. To that end, we have implemented multiple reforms aimed at more responsible and accountable policing, including the eight specific policies championed by the 8 Can’t Wait campaign.

We welcome every opportunity to listen and hear your concerns, and we are committed to transparency in the services we provide.

Learn more about Western’s Department of Public Safety and University Police Department, our standards, and our values.

Frequently Asked Questions

Western Washington University Police, along with Bellingham Police and nearly all other law enforcement agencies in Whatcom County, and thousands of police agencies around the country, use LeadsOnLine as an
investigative tool when searching for stolen property. LeadsOnLine is a specialized program that allows police to search pawn shops, 2nd-hand stores, E-Bay and other sources for property that has been reported
stolen or lost. This is a fantastic tool for law enforcement and works very well when information is available that uniquely identifies missing property.

One of the great frustrations for police officers investigating thefts and trying to recover stolen property is that many citizens do not have records of their property handy. Police need serial numbers, owner applied
custom numbers or markings or other identifiable information in order to find and return property that has been stolen. Often, found property cannot be returned to the rightful owner because ownership cannot be proved.

LeadsOnLine offers a service for citizens which allows you to store descriptive information, even photos and document scans, about your valuables so that you can later retrieve the information to give to police if
your property is stolen or lost.

Inventory isn't just for large companies - keep up with your personal belongings and the unique identifiable qualities that make them yours. You can easily and securely store serial numbers, photos, scans of receipts
and other information about your valuables. This information is extremely important should theft or loss of property happen to you.

Disclaimer: WWU Police promote the use of ReportIt as a vaulable aid to citizens and to law enforcement. WWU, UPD, and employees receive no compensation from LeadsOnLine.

University Police encourages citizens to turn in all items of found property to the Viking Union (VU) Lost and Found, with the following exceptions: Firearms, Bicycles, Weapons and Contraband. These items will be accepted and processed by the University Police. Additionally, property which is likely to be evidence or the fruit of a crime will be accepted by University Police.

WWUPD officers conduct their work on campus with a unique knowledge of the university, its communities, and its culture – insight that is vitally important, and awareness that officers from an outside agency don’t have. Additionally, the department is directly accountable to university administrators, faculty, and students.

 

First and foremost, the department is community-oriented in its approach to policing. WWUPD has been consistent in launching new and comprehensive initiatives to better serve the entire campus community, focus on equity and diversity, and ensure best practice standards. These initiatives include:

(1) creating a Campus Community Public Safety Advisory Council to allow students and faculty to engage directly on campus law enforcement issues,

(2) requiring all officers to attend Fair and Impartial Policing Training which focuses on racism, and implicit bias,

(3) implementing the Lexipol policies and procedures manual that is based on industry standards, established federal, state, and local case law, and on best practices,

(4) launching a student cadet program to help diversify the law enforcement pipeline in Washington State.

Currently the department is engaged in implementing several additional key initiatives including:

(1) implementation of body-worn cameras,

(2) implementation of a cellular phone-based safety app,

(3) working in partnership with University Residences on a pilot community-oriented resource officer program in the residence halls.

The department is an integral partner with the Dean of Students Office and the Counseling Center in conducting threat assessments for individuals and incidents that pose a risk to the safety of the campus community. The team reviews reported incidents that create imminent threats to campus safety, and then develops response plans to address those incidents. This is consistent with recommendations of NaBITA, the National Behavior Intervention Team Association. The core leadership team, as well as many members have been trained by NaBITA. We periodically review previous cases for consistency and opportunities for improvement.

The UPD is a member of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (CALEA) and we are currently in the process of attaining international accreditation through this organization. Accreditations measure performance and accountability of police agencies based on over 200 best practice standards.

The Department of Public Safety has implemented the Lexipol policies and procedures manual, which promotes industry standards and best practices. It is based on settled case law as well as federal, state, and local law. This broader foundation is especially critical regarding the protection of civil rights, increased transparency, and greater accountability.

WWUPD employs a mix of state-commissioned police officers, civilian staff, and student employees.

Only sworn, commissioned officers are equipped with firearms. Those officers undergo the same required training as all other commissioned officers in the state at the Washington Criminal Justice Training Commission. That training involves more than 720 hours of training over nearly six months. It is a full-time training in application of state law, police practices, field judgment, physical fitness and agility, appropriate use of force, and officer tools. After completion of the course, police officers must then complete another 12 weeks of field training under the supervision of an experienced university police officer.

Annually, the State of Washington Criminal Justice Training Commission audits every police department and requires that every commissioned officer attend a minimum of 24 hours in additional training.

WWUPD has implemented additional training for officers which includes training on implicit bias, de-escalation techniques, and federal reporting mechanisms such as for the Clery Act and Title IX.

National law enforcement standards dictate that certain key services are performed only by armed officers. These include transporting arrestees, making traffic stops, confronting armed and dangerous individuals, making certain arrests, serving warrants and conducting investigations at unknown or unsecured locations.

WWUPD can only operate as a full-service law enforcement department and provide the benefits to campus described above, if its sworn officers can perform all the key law enforcement services.

There are six state-supported public institutions in the state of Washington. All of them have armed police on campus. So do more than 90 percent of public universities according to the most recent DOJ comprehensive national survey. Police officers equipped with firearms have been on the WWU campus since 1990.

WWUPD agrees with all the reforms proposed by the 8 Can’t Wait campaign. Those polices on police use of force, required de-escalation, officers’ duty to intervene, comprehensive reporting and others, are already part of WWUPD’s policy or practice. The department is currently reviewing its policy manual to ensure those rules and restrictions are abundantly clear. See more details below.

WWUPD’s Use of Force Policy 300.3 states that officers “Shall use only that amount of force that reasonably appears necessary given the facts and circumstances perceived by the officer at the time of the event to accomplish a legitimate law enforcement purpose.”

The department’s use of force training program includes specific instructions requiring officers to de-escalate situations where possible, by communicating with subjects, maintaining distance, and otherwise eliminating the need to use force.

WWUPD Policy 300.2.1 explicitly states that members of this department have an affirmative duty to intervene if they observe another officer using force that is clearly beyond that which is objectively reasonable. They should promptly report these to a supervisor.

Western practices de-escalation as a preferred method of resolving an incident. Force includes a variety of techniques and tools, and ranges from holding on to someone, pulling them to the ground, and using counter-joint techniques to gain compliance, as well as Tasers, bean bags, and firearms.

According to a recent review of applications of force in the years 2015 through 2020:

  • WWUPD applied force in fewer than one percent (0.34%) of their calls for service.

  • The vast majority of force applications (67%) were physical control holds and did not involve a weapon.

  • Seventy-six percent of the applications of force were directed at individuals who were non-students.

WWUPD has never used deadly force, nor has it had an incident where an officer’s use of force caused serious bodily injury.

  • No. The department does not possess any equipment or firearms that are not available for civilian purchase.

  • WWUPD does not deploy tear gas, pepper balls, rubber bullets, or use military style vehicles.

  • WWUPD has not participated in the U.S. military’s 1033 program, which transfers excess military to civilian law enforcement agencies, and does not have any funds allocated for the future purchase of that type of equipment.

WWUPD does not contract with Bellingham Police Department to provide law enforcement services anywhere on our campus.

The WWUPD only requests support from Bellingham Police Department on the WWU campus during an emergency or critical incident where the event exceeds the department’s resources or capabilities. All police agencies rely on their peers from time to time in emergency situations, a practice commonly known as “mutual aid.”

Any complaint from our campus community is taken very seriously by the department, and all complaints against officers are formally documented, regardless of the final outcome.

Complaints are initially investigated by the Assistant Chief, a WWUPD supervisor or by an outside agency as requested by the Chief of Police.

Investigations are conducted in a timely manner and all complainants are notified when the investigation is completed in person or in writing.

Complaints are used as a tool to identify systemic problems, review our policies and procedures, and provide additional training to officers and to the department as appropriate.

If parents, or any friend or family member, are ever concerned about the welfare of a student, they may call the University Police Department, day or night. We will gladly send an officer to make contact with the student and check on their welfare.

It can vary from 1-6+ officers at any time, depending on anticipated activity or events that are taking place. In addition, university police officers are on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Campus crime statistics are available in the Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety Report located on the department’s Records page. WWU’s Daily Crime and Fire Log is also posted online.

Requests for copies of reports can be made in person, by phone (360-650-3579), by fax (360-650-3367), or by mail. The address for mailed requests is: WWU PD, Records Office, 2001 Bill McDonald Parkway, Bellingham, WA 98225.

We encourage you to use the WWU UPD Request for Public Records form: download, complete, and mail to the address listed above. Pursuant to the Washington Public Records Act, reports are subject to review in order to protect individual privacy. Hard copies of reports are free if under 30 pages; if over 30 pages, a 15 cent per page fee is required, as well as any postage.

As defined in WAC 516.52.020, prohibited weapons may not be carried or stored anywhere on campus, except by, and at, the University Police Department. Anyone visiting or residing on campus may store their prohibited weapons at the University Police Department. Anyone with a valid WA State concealed pistol license may store a pistol in their vehicle on campus. WWU does not recommend this practice and does not accept responsibility for property stolen from parking lots.

Pursuant to recent changes in WA State law, if you store a weapon with the WWU Police, you will not be able to retrieve it upon-demand! Per RCW 9.41.113, an extensive background check is required each time a person wishes to retrieve their firearm from the University Police weapons storage.

The University Police Department’s jurisdiction is generally limited to the properties owned or leased by Western Washington University, though University Police Officers do have statewide jurisdiction for all crimes. In the event of an emergency, it is vitally important that you call either 911 or the police agency/emergency service that has responsibility for where you are at the time of the emergency. If you would like to call University Police for advice or non-emergency assistance from off campus, we welcome the call and will assist in any way possible.