At the OCCC Board of Regents meeting June 20, James Fitzpatrick was officially commissioned in the role as Chief of Police of OCCC’s Campus Police Department.
Fitzpatrick was actually hired at OCCC last December but this made his title official.
“I was hired into a job classification of chief of police,” he said. “I was still in some aspects … Coordinating Director of Safety and Security, but my title was Chief of Police.”
Fitzpatrick was the first member of the new campus police department to be commissioned by the board.
The announcement that OCCC would switch from a campus security office to a police department was made last August. Since that time, Fitzpatrick said, the area has been undergoing changes.
“The process of actually hiring patrol officers for the department is under way now,” he said.
Fitzpatrick said he expects the transition from security force to full-fledged police department to take three years or more.
“When we have completely transitioned into the plan, there’ll be 17 commissioned personnel,” he said.
Fitzpatrick said there also will be six civilian positions in the department, including dispatchers.
Currently, he said, OCCC employs 12 full-time and five part-time security officers.
Fitzpatrick said there are no plans to let go of any current security officers.
However, he said, the decision as to whether those security officers will be maintained as they are or be commissioned as police officers hasn’t been made yet.
The jurisdiction of the new campus police force will include the campus and all campus facilities, including the location of the FACE Center on Land Avenue in south Oklahoma City, as well as the parts of May Avenue and SW 74th Street that adjoin campus property, he said.
Fitzpatrick said this corresponds with what the Oklahoma Campus Security Act outlines for campus police departments.
More resources also will be available to the campus police department than there were for the security force, he said.
One of those resources is the state-run CLEET training academy, available to all state law enforcement agencies.
As it stands now, Fitzpatrick said, officers are on their own when it comes to CLEET training.
“I cannot sign up my security officers for CLEET training,” Fitzpatrick said. “When they’re police officers … I can sign them up for training.”
Fitzpatrick said, despite that, the department is still more likely to hire applicants who already have CLEET certification because hiring non-certified candidates would require OCCC pay them while they are enrolled in the academy.
“We posted our openings for people that already have CLEET certification,” Fitzpatrick said.
“They’re already working for a police department or already have worked for a sheriff’s office, police department or state agency that required them to have CLEET certification and they still have it.
“So the day they come to work here … they’re already CLEET certified and can go to work.
“As the transition moves along, we may do a combination of both. It just depends.”
Under the Oklahoma Campus Security Act, campus police departments make agreements with local law enforcement agencies, but Fitzpatrick said none have been made yet with the Oklahoma City Police Department. However, he said, they will be.
“There will still be a lot of interaction with the Oklahoma City Police Department,” Fitzpatrick said.
“We don’t have all the bells and whistles that a large police department has.
“If there’s evidence, we don’t have a crime lab. We don’t have forensic technicians.
“Although those types of crimes rarely occur here, (if one did) we would probably yield that case over. We’d detain the individuals until Oklahoma City got here and turn that case over.
“We would not make arrests. We’re not going to muddle it up for them.”
There will be other instances where the campus police will make arrests, though.
Minor thefts, auto burglaries, and public intoxication cases will be the kinds of cases that the campus police force will handle, Fitzpatrick said.
With the authority to make arrests for violations of state and city laws under a fully commissioned police force, OCCC officers will be able to arrest and transport detainees to holding facilities such as the Oklahoma County Jail.
Fitzpatrick said the transition to a campus police department is an improvement of what was already established at OCCC.
“There’s delineated arrest power,” he said. “There’s a delineated power of authority whereas it is not so clearly defined when you start talking about security officers.
“But this campus is served by some pretty doggone good people. The fact that they were not peace officers … did not diminish the service level that they (provided.)
“I’ve been very impressed with their attitudes, their attentiveness, their availability.”
“These individuals are used to following policies and procedures and taking care of all the … security needs and medical needs that … arise on campus.
“We’re (not) getting rid of some negative thing … It’s just an improvement on what they had here.”