Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Public Thank You to the UMass Amherst Police Department for a Great Field Trip for My Humanitarian Logistics Class

Today is Valentine's Day and I brought muffins from Whole Foods (so they must be healthy) for the students in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class at the Isenberg School. I thought it a nice way to celebrate the holiday and also to show appreciation to my students for their great questions this past Tuesday on our class field trip to the UMass Amherst Police Department at the corner of East Pleasant Street and Eastman Lane in Amherst.

I am a big believer in hosting practitioners in such a class as well as organizing field trips and, since the class meets early, from 8:30-10:00AM, that helps with the logistics of such special experiences.
Our host was Lt. Tom O'Donnell, who himself is a UMass Amherst grad in criminal science, and the experience was so educational and fascinating that today I delivered a gift to him, along with a thank you card signed by the students.
I was so proud of my students since the Lt. had sent me a message, after our field trip, which included the following:

Thanks for the note, it is very kind of you. Please let the students know they asked some of the best questions I have ever had. I can usually guess the questions that will be asked when giving a tour, and your class asked some of the most in-depth questions that I can remember.

The field trip began with a session in a classroom at the police station, which included a lot of Q&A. We got to hear the challenges of policing at UMass Amherst over thirty years and how the challenges have changed over time. It was very impressive to learn about how the police department prepares over months for special scheduled events and also how it anticipates incidents. There are 61 police officers, who are supplemented with cadets that live in the dorms and provide useful input. The UMass Amherst Police Department also is heavily involved in the community and has organized fishing trips, an Amazing Race, and even bike rodeos. It has also hosted middle schoolers for movies.

The UMass Amherst police officers all are professionally trained. Because of their expertise they are sometimes even called upon by the neighboring town of Hadley, which has a tiny police force. The humanity of Lt. Tom O'Donnell was so apparent and his concern about students and their welfare. He even noted how students, these days, are under so much pressure to succeed and this can impact their mental health.

The Police Station, which is only a few years old, is stunning and another highlight was touring the facility, from the high tech room, where we got to meet and speak with the dispatchers (and marveled at the big screen with the weather, since we were facing a big snowstorm) to even the cells, where there are places for those under protective custody. Everything has been thought through, from the best way to deliver those brought in, to audio and video equipment to record answers of those brought in, to questions that they are asked to ascertain their condition, such as: Who is the President of the US? Even the flusher for each toilet in a cell is located outside the cell. We were asked whether we knew the reason behind this. We saw the blankets, carefully wrapped, and used for those who stay overnight and learned how those brought in are fed before being released or transferred to the Northampton facility.
What also amazed me is how spotless everything was - very scrubbed and well-maintained. We learned about "Run, Hide, Fight" in case of certain incidents and that the police department will soon be introducing a six minute video, which I am sure will be a must-see.

The impact that Lt. Tom O'Donnell has had and continues to have also reaches outside of our community to, would you believe, Ecuador! In January, at about the same time that I was taking part in and speaking at the fabulous Congreso Futuro in Chile, Lt. O'Donnell, with a coterie of colleagues, was training police in Ecuador.

He shared with us some of the policing techniques that they educated the police force there on (and, frankly, I will be checking out episodes of Law and Order to see if the right tactics are being followed), which will be shared with 40,000 police members nationally in Ecuador. 

After the indoor time, we took a group photo.

For those who did not have to rush off to their next class at 10AM on campus, we got to tour the garage, where the police bikes are stored, and the special vehicles in the lot, including a Humvee and the Command Center. We did not get a chance to see the police horses, who are housed elsewhere!

And, to top off the fantastic field trip, we even received 5 souvenirs each from Lt. O'Donnell and the UMass  Amherst Police Department, including a portable stapler, which will come in good use, and a lovely notebook with colorful stickers, and even tissues, given that this is winter!
A huge thank to to Lt. Tom O'Donnell for a wonderful educational experience for my class! We so much appreciate what you and the UMass Amherst Police Department do for our great university and beyond.