Our department maintains a variety of specialized teams of highly trained officers to serve the University community at moments notice. The teams consist of officers who have been through advanced specialized training and perform regular training to maintain their readiness. Their service is in addition to their normally assigned duties within the department. The various teams include the Bomb Disposal Unit, the K9 Unit, the Special Response Team, the Crisis Negotiation Team, the Mobile Field Force and the Critical Incident Response Team.
Advanced Service Teams
Advanced Service Teams at UGA
Special Response Team
The University of Georgia Police Department maintains a well trained and equipped Special Response Team (SRT). The Special Response Team is used in the event of an incident requiring the use of specialized weapons, tactics or training.
University of Georgia Police Department Special Response Team members have a phrase printed across their uniform shirts: Pro Custodia Vita. The phrase is a Latin translation of the team’s mission “for the protection of life.” That mission permeates all aspects of the highly specialized team’s activities, from selection, to training, to equipment. To accomplish its mission, the team only selects officers who demonstrate an above average ability to solve problems and make decisions under stress, a high commitment to physical fitness, and high proficiency in firearms skills. After selection, team members attend a set of specialized skills classes and undergo advanced firearms and tactical training monthly. Training focuses on response and safe resolution to high-risk and extremely dangerous incidents.
In addition to training, team members have access to a wide array of specialized tools to assist in its life saving mission. The special response team employs such tools as ballistic shields and vests, chemical munitions and less lethal platforms. All equipment and tactics are designed and used with the ultimate goal of saving lives. The UGA Special Response Team consists of response team operators and a precision marksman element. The team also trains and works closely with the Athens-Clarke County Police Department SRT and other tactical teams in the area to provide a better-coordinated service to their community and others. Team members come from different functional areas within the department.
Bomb Disposal Unit
The Bomb Disposal Unit serves the University community and northeast Georgia with highly trained officers and specialized equipment to safely handle and dispose of explosives.
The University of Georgia Police Bomb Disposal Unit exists to provide the University and the surrounding community with safe, timely resolution to bomb threats, suspicious package concerns, and threats from actual hazardous devices. Our primary goal is to protect people from harm related to such threats and concerns. A secondary goal is to minimize the damage to critical infrastructure and property. As a result of a partnership with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), the University of Georgia Bomb Disposal Unit responds to bomb related calls for the Northeast Georgia region. The Bomb Disposal Unit is made up of certified Bomb Technicians.
Our Bomb Technicians receive their training at the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Hazardous Devices School in Huntsville, Alabama—the only nationally recognized school of its kind. In addition to receiving their Bomb Technician certification, team members regularly participate in training classes hosted by other agencies such as the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and Technical Support Working Group (TSWG). In addition to the team’s primary functions of dealing with explosives detection and disruption, the members are also trained to deal with hazardous material (HAZMAT) situations. All of the members of the Bomb Disposal Unit are required to be certified HAZMAT technicians.
The Bomb Disposal Unit maintains and trains with a multitude of tools and equipment, all of which allow the technicians to do their jobs effectively and safely. Major equipment includes a robot, a total containment vessel and a state-of-the-art bomb response vehicle. The vehicle is equipped with conventional bomb disposal equipment, the robot, bomb suits, x-ray equipment and hazardous material response gear. The bomb response vehicle and total containment vessel are part of the state’s regional response in case of major bombing emergencies. The Bomb Disposal Unit, like many other areas of the Police Department, represents a substantial investment of monetary and human capital aimed at making the University community safer.
The K9 Bomb Detection Unit provides provides assistance in the search and detection of explosives. The unit is comprised of four highly trained canines and their handlers.
The University of Georgia Police Department is equipped with explosive canine detective teams that are used to maximize safety while minimizing disruptions to the overall academic environment. The teams, each consisting of a law enforcement officer and a dog, conduct searches in response to bomb threats, suspicious packages, dignitary protection, gun recovery and special events. They provide assistance per request to various state, county and municipal law enforcement agencies throughout the state of Georgia. The K9 Handlers are on call 24/7 and their K9 handling duties are in addition to their current assignments.
The dogs are trained in odor recognition by a certified instructor along with basic obedience and how to alert on an explosive odor. Once the dog has successfully completed this training, they are then paired with a dog handler for a period of four to five weeks. The teams are taught search techniques as well as procedures on recognizing changes in their dog’s behavior when they “alert” on a potential threat. This produces an effective team which can locate and identify a wide variety of dangerous materials.
Once the team successfully completes the training, they are certified by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA). GEMA schedules additional training throughout the year and mandates that each team gets re-certified annually. Upon their return to the department they continue to train once a week to maintain the highest level of efficiency. The teams train with other agencies throughout the state to improve their skills and introduce the dogs to different environments. The joint training allows us to develop good working relationships in the event we are called on to work together during an actual emergency.
Mobile Field Force
This fully operational team specializes in crowd management, crowd dispersal, and the protection of life and property during incidents constituting civil unrest. If cause and emotion threaten UGA’s tranquil and historic community, the Mobile Field Force will be the first to respond to bring about and maintain order.
Universities are not immune from civil disorder, and the University of Georgia Police Department maintains a Mobile Field Force Team to assist in restoring order when necessary. A fundamental role of law enforcement is to protect the rights of all people to peacefully assemble, demonstrate, protest, or rally. In turn, law enforcement also has the responsibility to ensure public safety and to protect the lives and property of all people. The goal of maintaining order while protecting the freedoms of speech and assembly stands as one of law enforcement’s greatest challenges. Colorado, Minnesota, Maryland, West Virginia, Indiana, and Arizona are only a handful of states that have experienced civil unrest at their universities. The catalyst for such behavior varies and can include protesting local or foreign affairs, changes in university policy, and athletics.
The size of the University of Georgia, its acceptance of a variety of viewpoints, and its successful athletic programs promote large gatherings of students, faculty, staff, and visitors. Large crowds have the potential to become disorderly if a flashpoint is reached based on any of the previously mentioned catalysts. When this happens, the Mobile Field Force Team can be an effective and skillful response to restore calm and preserve safety.
The Mobile Field Force Team is comprised of every sworn officer from all divisions within the police department. Each officer has immediate access to protective equipment and trains throughout the year in crowd control tactics. Officers are capable of responding to a variety of behaviors and have the ability to provide rapid, organized and disciplined response to civil disorder, and control or disburse unruly crowds.
In 2004, the Mobile Field Force Team was asked to assist during the G8 Conference held at Sea Island, Georgia. In support of Georgia’s quest to host a successful conference, the University of Georgia Police Department’s Mobile Field Force Team was assigned as a response team at one of the most critical sites during the G8 Conference—the Multiple Agency Communications Center located at the St. Simons airport.
Crisis Negotiation Team
The University of Georgia Police Department Crisis Negotiations Teams supports the overall mission of the department by providing a team of officers who are trained to effectively communicate with people who are in a crisis situation. The team’s primary mission is to protect life and reduce the probability of injury. The team responds to individuals in crisis situations and works to communicate with them in a way that facilitates a rational thought process for that individual.
The team also works to synchronize with all other components of an overall response by the Police Department to insure consistency by all components and command. The position assignment of team members helps in this response by allowing an identifiable structure for other components to quickly and efficiently discuss the necessity and effectiveness of available strategies.
Team members train monthly and receive advanced training depending on team position. Training is received from the Georgia Public Safety Training Center, The Institute of Police Traffic Management, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other organizations, seminars, and conferences.
Critical Incident Response Team
Beginning in the mid ’90s, the University of Georgia Police Department established a team of highly trained investigators who respond to serious crime and crash scenes for the purpose of investigating and precisely mapping those scenes. By mapping these scenes, these investigators are able to gather valuable information that will allow them to more readily find people responsible for perpetrating these crimes. The investigators on this team attend a minimum of eight different accident investigation and reconstruction courses taught through the Georgia Public Safety Training Center, as well as quarterly training sessions. They currently employ the use of a Laser Technology Inc. measuring system that allows them to measure crash and crime scenes down to the inch and reproduce those scenes down to the inch and reproduce those scenes in to-scale diagrams for later use.