University of Texas Police Department

Clockwise from top left, Kallen Dimitroff, government junior and University-wide representative, Mohammed Nabulsi, law student, law school representative and co-author of the resolution, Mukund Rathi, computer science senior and co-author of the resolution and Jonathan Barak Dror, economics sophomore and University-wide representative debate the passing of the divestment resolution at the Student Government meeting Tuesday evening.

Photo Credit: Mariana Gonzalez | Daily Texan Staff

After weeks of contentious debate, the Student Government Assembly voted against a divestment resolution which would have asked the UT System Investment Management Company (UTIMCO) to pull investments from five corporations that the resolution claimed “facilitate in the oppression of the Palestinian people by the State of Israel.”  

The Assembly voted against the resolution by a 11–23–1 vote Tuesday night.

The resolution asked UTIMCO to divest specifically from Alstom, Cemex, Hewlett-Packard, Procter & Gamble and United Technologies because of “human rights violations,” according to the resolution. 

University-wide representative Santiago Rosales said he voted against the resolution because he thought it was too divisive to support.

“I do not mean to say that either side is divisive in itself but rather that the approach of [the resolution] is divisive in nature,” Rosales said. “This student government has taken unified approaches of bridging differences in this campus, bringing students together to bring meaningful change.”

After the vote, many students who had lobbied in support of the resolution protested outside of the Assembly room, voicing opposition to the decision. University of Texas Police Department officers came to monitor the scene.

English junior Josephine Lawson, a co-author of the divestment resolution, reacts with other students after the Assembly did not pass the resolution. Mariana Gonzalez | Daily Texan Staff

UTIMCO CEO and CIO Bruce Zimmerman said the company makes investment decisions solely based on the financial interest of the University and so would not have taken the resolution into consideration even if it had passed.

“The current policy is not to take into account political and social considerations,” Zimmerman said. “That’s a long standing policy, and it’s a policy supported by staff.”

Mohammed Nabulsi, SG law representative and an author of the resolution, said the authors wanted to pass the resolution despite UTIMCO’s stance on divestment based on political and social issues.

“What we’re doing with this resolution is saying, irrespective of what [UTIMCO has] already said, our student body continues, continues, continues to support divesting from human rights abuses,” Nabulsi said. “This is just following in line with other resolutions Student Government has
already passed.”

The 2010–2011 SG Assembly passed a resolution asking UTIMCO to revise its policies to include consideration of social policy. The divestment resolution also cited precedent from the 2014–2015 SG session, during which the Assembly passed a resolution calling for divestment from companies that facilitate genocide in Sudan.

The resolution was based out of a national boycott-sanctioning-divestment, or “BDS,” movement started by Palestinian human rights groups. Nabulsi told the Texan on April 9 that Unify Texas, a student organization opposing the BDS resolution, does not understand the BDS movement.

“Unify Texas relies on a mischaracterization of BDS and our goals here on campus in order to make a straw man argument,” Nabulsi said. “BDS is a step towards leveling the negotiating playing field so that the Israeli government is forced to take Palestinian demands seriously.”

Earlier Tuesday, 17 former SG presidents and vice presidents sent a letter to the current Assembly, asking them not to vote in favor of the resolution.

“As our former student body presidents have said — the people who care most about our University — it is not our place to support this philosophy,” University-wide representative Kallen Dimitroff said. “The alienation it would cause certain groups on campus, the stance and precedent it would set for student government, would be very detrimental.”

Carmel Abuzaid, a international relations and global studies freshman and supporter of divestment, said passing the resolution would specifically recognize the oppression she and other UT students have experienced in Palestine firsthand. 

“Passing this resolution would not only recognize my experiences as valid but would also unify the University against injustice and oppression,” Abuzaid said.

Maya Russo, an international relations and global studies sophomore who spoke in opposition to the resolution, said she felt personally targeted. 

“This is not a human rights legislation, nor is it one that promotes justice. This is an anti-Israel legislation,” Russo said. “This hateful rhetoric that is directed at my people and at me personally is one-sided. … This is a step in the wrong direction toward the ultimate objective — peace.” 

 

A police officer rides a bike down Guadalupe Street.

Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

When the University of Texas Police Department received a bomb threat earlier this month, officers quickly went to sweep the area near the Butler School of Music — but did not send a text alert to students about the situation. UTPD is looking into ways to better disseminate information to the community, UTPD Chief David Carter said.

According to Carter, the officers’ first job is to respond to the situation and then decide what they need to communicate to the community.

“What happens when the police respond in this case — there’s the question of, ‘is this is a false alarm or is this real,’” Carter said. “They have to respond as if it’s real to be prepared in case they discover something. If they had discovered anything or had something had been occurring, then that notification system would have kicked in.”

The police are often the only ones who know about threats made against the University, and they do not publicize threats that are not considered legitimate, Carter said. In the case of the threat last week, Carter said the team went to the scene immediately because they did not know how reliable the information was.

“What it really boils down to is do we believe it’s an actual threat,” Carter said. “We’re not going to wait around.“

After this most recent threat, Carter said UTPD determined that alerts will be sent out telling the campus community to avoid certain areas because of police activity during all high-risk investigations, but the department is still looking to improve communication.

“We also understand [people think] ‘Hey the [police are] here; this is scary looking,’ and so we need to find effective ways to let you all know what’s going on,” Carter said. “I think this is kind of one of those things where we would really like our campus community’s help.”

After seeing posts about last week’s bomb threat on UTPD’s social media channels after the situation had been resolved, some parents and students wanted to know why they had not been informed. 

Biology junior Kathleen Lee, who didn’t have text messaging during a bomb threat in 2012 and was not alerted to the situation, said she urged her parents to add texting to her phone plan so that she could be aware of future incidents.

“I just think that if something big like that is happening, then I need immediate notification of that — it wasn’t really nice to be caught by surprise,” Lee said. “I really wish that they did notify us. I know that they probably don’t want to incite public panic or anything, but if something like that is happening so close … then you have a right to know.”

Lee said she didn’t know about either of the two threats this semester until she saw her friends posting about it on social media.

The rapid pace of communication through these mediums often means people forget to notify police about situations as they develop, Carter said.

“A lot of times folks start communicating on social media, and they’ll assume that [the police] know about it and we don’t,” Carter said.

UTPD officers try to be judicious when determining when to send out alerts, and to whom the alerts should be sent, according to UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey.

“The text messaging system — we already have [more than] 70,000 people signed up for text messages — if we overload that system, if we added every parent that wanted to be alerted, then the messaging would be slower to the people who needed it the fastest,” Posey said.

Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

Members of Student Government are working to bring a mobile safety application to campus in an attempt to give students a better sense of security. 

Taylor Strickland, SG vice president, said the inspiration for the application came from a similar program at Virginia Tech, which a student who was present at Virginia Tech’s 2007 on-campus shooting helped develop.

“I’ve lived in West Campus since my sophomore year, and I’ve actually been fortunate enough to always feel safe, but I know that’s not a universal feeling,” Strickland said. “So any tools we can provide to students to make them feel better and more secure and safe is kind of what I saw this being a great opportunity for.”

Strickland said the main feature of the application would be a tracking system for students walking on campus or back and forth from their homes. It would allow a friend or parent to monitor their progress and show when the student reached their destination.

“This is probably one of the biggest ones because we live on a campus where a lot of students live in West Campus, and a lot of students live within walking distance, even if you’re just on campus and walking at night,” Strickland said. “That way somebody is looking out for you, and it doesn’t have to be super invasive, but at the same time, it’s just an extra sense of security.”

Strickland also said they want the application to connect students to officers from both the University of Texas Police Department and the Austin Police Department, and SG members have worked alongside UTPD officials on the early stages of its development.

Instead of adding more blue emergency call boxes across campus and further into West Campus, Strickland said she saw this as a more feasible and practical solution. 

“We have a great UTPD, they do a lot, but there’s only so much you can do with 50,000 students, and that’s where blue boxes came in,” Strickland said. “So where UTPD can’t be, the blue boxes are there, but now we’ve moved into an age where blue boxes can’t be everywhere.” 

Government senior Mirusha Yogarajah said she liked the idea of a safety application but said she wasn’t sure students would consider the application a viable option for personal security.

“I know I’m sometimes worried about walking home when there aren’t many people around, and this feels like a sense of security,” Yogarajah said.

Corporate communications senior Anna Chamness said she has lived in West Campus for three years and that an application like this would be useful to all students walking to and from campus or walking to different places in West Campus.

“I think the app is a step closer in improving the safety of West Campus and other student-populated areas,” Chamness said. “It’s an easy and convenient way to make sure our friends make it home safely after a night out.”

Strickland said she hopes the application will be available to all students — even those who don’t live on campus or in West Campus.

“What I would really like to see is this count for more than the 40 Acres because we aren’t always on the 40 Acres,” Strickland said. “There are a ton of students who live on Riverside, and there’s some students who live in North Campus, so making sure that they can still use this app and someone will make sure that [the police] get contacted no matter what the circumstances.”

Painter Hall evacuated because of wires in fire alarm panel

T.S. Painter Hall was evacuated earlier this morning because of a report of a strange odor, but the building is now being reopened.

Around 8 a.m. this morning, The University of Texas Police Department recieved a call about a strange odor in Painter Hall that was described as burning rubber, said UTPD Public Information Officer Cindy Posey. Emergency services, including UTPD and the Austin Fire Department, responded to the call.

"After the invesitgation we discovered that is was wires in the fire alarm panel that had burned out, and the smell was coming from the insulation around the wires," Posey said.

The building is being reopened, and any classes in the building are expected to resume.

Follow Bobby Blanchard on Twitter @bobbycblanchard.

While revelations on the federal government’s surveillance of U.S. citizens’ phone records and emails continue to become public, UT has also disclosed its own forms of on-campus data collection using UT IDs.

Whenever students, staff and faculty swipe their UT IDs to enter a building on campus, the University of Texas Police Department can find out where they have been, without a warrant. Information gathered through card swipes is stored in a data log immediately accessible to UTPD for 30 days and then removed, UTPD spokeswoman Rhonda Weldon said.

Although the National Security Agency has been the subject of criticism for its surveillance, local officials say such monitoring is not uncommon and does not break the law. UT officials say its information on UT IDs is only accessed on a limited basis for specific purposes.

“Access control records are turned over to UTPD if they are needed to investigate criminal activity in specific areas,” Weldon said. “The security system card access records are never used for employee management or student time and attendance purposes.” 

UT IDs are required for access to “controlled areas,” such as student living areas in Jester Dormitory and Kinsolving Dormitory, as well as research laboratories on campus. All new buildings opened in the last five years, including the Belo Center for New Media and the Liberal Arts Building, have been installed with card access points.  

Cynthia Posey, UTPD spokesperson, could not provide a number of times the data has been accessed, but said UTPD has asked for these records on “numerous” occasions. UTPD also advises Information Technology Services, the department that distributes IDs and manages technology on campus, on where to install new card access points. 

The Austin Police Department uses a similar technique with city employees at controlled municipal buildings, said Samantha Park, spokeswoman for the city of Austin.

Park said city employee access card data could be obtained by APD without a warrant, but that a formal process requiring approval of building managers was necessary for access. Park said most inquiries from APD on card data are related to criminal investigations. 

“If APD makes a request, Building Services tries to work with them as best as possible,” Park said. “If there is ever a question about the request, the best course of action is determined internally between Building Services, APD and management.”

UTPD’s access to the proximity access data does not require a warrant because of current legal precedent, said Robert Chesney, associate dean of the school of law.

“It may be the case that not a lot [of] students know this is going on, but we’re talking about the information that’s being gathered because you were using UT-issued IDs to access UT property with permission from UT,” Chesney said.

Chesney said he thought it was a practical measure to use the information for administrative purposes and crime prevention because of the high value of technology and goods stored on campus facilities. 

“Recent events have all made us stop and think about what the rules should be,” Chesney said. “That’s a question we should all ask. But I don’t think it’s constitutionally required, or that there’s anything illegal or untoward about UT handling information in this way.”

A series of public forums beginning Friday will feature the final four candidates for the position of University of Texas Police Department chief. The candidates will address campus concerns and discuss the future of the department. 

The forums will round out the selection committee’s process, allowing candidates to address the public before one is selected for further recommendation. The committee hopes to finalize a decision by the end of the semester. Last semester, UTPD Chief Robert Dahlstrom announced his retirement effective next month.

David Carter, Assistant Chief of the Austin Police Department, will be the first candidate to be featured in the forum. It will be held at the Avaya Auditorium at 2 p.m. 

Michael Lauderdale, chairman of the selection committee and criminal justice professor, said candidate performance at the forums will weigh heavily on the committee’s consideration and encouraged students to attend. 

“The open forum is important as we want to make the candidates available to others that are not on the various interview committees,” Lauderdale said. “How the candidates present themselves in public, respond to questions and read our community interests will be an important factor in our considerations.”

The search committee will select a finalist based on a series of qualifications unique to the police chief position, according to a committee press release. Given the University’s large infrastructure, the chief of police must demonstrate a clear sense of leadership and administrative coordination. 

Lauderdale said the chief must be enthusiastic and able to work with a diverse group of people. The chief also needs to be comfortable working with other law enforcement entities.

“This is not a sleepy college town,” Lauderdale said. “We’re a very visible campus with big-time visitors, about one to two million [visitors] per year. We need to have a chief that is respected and works collaboratively with the Austin Police Department and the Travis County Sheriff’s office as well as the Texas Department of Public safety, the DEA and FBI.”

Lauderdale said the chief of police should approach the position with the educational goals of the institution in mind, utilizing the position to further the education of students and the mission of faculty and staff at the University. The forums will help indicate whether the candidates can fulfill such requirements.

Although the committee’s recommendation will single out a final candidate, the ultimate hiring decision rests with UT President William Powers Jr.

“We will have one individual come back to meet with President Powers,” Lauderdale said. “The president’s responsibility is to see if the individual meets his criteria. Our hope is that we can have all of this done and that we have chosen a candidate by the time graduation occurs. We’d like to have some transition before Chief Dahlstrom leaves the campus.”

Warmer weather will bring more car thefts to Austin, and although thefts and break-ins are rare at the University, both UTPD and the Austin Police Department are preparing for the predicted rise.

According to a list released by the Austin Police Department, the Honda Accord was the most commonly stolen car in Austin in 2012. Various types of American-made cars and three Toyota models also appeared among the top 10 stolen car models.

Diana Amaro, APD neighborhood liaison, said the first five months of the year usually correspond to an increase in truck thefts. According to Amaro, the department works to prevent break-ins and thefts by educating the community on ways to take precautions. 

One program offered by the APD encourages drivers to have their car windows engraved for free with a Vehicle Identification Number to make it identifiable and to deter thieves.

“If you go to a car dealership, you will pay $200 to $400 for this service. The Austin Police Department provides it free from a grant that [it] receives from Texas Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention,” Amaro said.

If a thief were to steal an engraved car, they would have to break and replace each window to remove the Vehicle Identification Number, Amaro said. 

The Help End Auto Theft program is another initiative by the APD to reduce car theft. By enrolling in the program, drivers give law enforcement permission to stop their cars and verify ownership between one and five in the morning, which is when most vehicles are stolen, Amaro said. Vehicles enrolled in the program are identified by a car decal," Amaro said.

The University uses education to help prevent auto theft Layne Brewster, University of Texas Police Department officer, said.

“Basically, we have programs that educate students,” Brewster said. “We have the campus watch that we put out. I believe that we have little brochures that officers in the past have gone around and just left out, especially during the holidays,” 

At the University, car break-ins, which are more common than thefts, are usually seasonal, Brewster said. They tend to spike around Christmas and spring break according to Brewster.

Between Dec. 1, 2012 and Feb. 5, 2013, the University of Texas Police Department had five reports of car break-ins and thefts, Brewster said.

Students and campus staff also take measures to prevent car theft.

“I park in a parking garage,” Allison Cope, an administrative assistant for the Division of Housing and Food Service, said. “I feel like it’s probably safer there. If I park on the street, I try to park near buildings or high-traffic areas.” 

Published on February 6, 2013 as "Local police predict increase in car thefts".

Chief of UTPD Robert Dahlstrom will be retiring in May after serving as head of the department for 6 years. 

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

The search is on for a new University of Texas Police Department chief after the current chief, Robert Dahlstrom, announced he will retire this May.

Bob Harkins, associate vice president for campus safety and security, said the University is putting together a search committee to look for Dahlstrom’s replacement. Dahlstrom has served as UTPD chief since March 2006 and was with the Austin Police Department in multiple positions for 28 years before that.

Dahlstrom said he has been on-call with his work since the early 1990s, when he became a part of APD’s SWAT team. He said he is looking forward to relaxing in his retirement and spending more time with his family. His wife retired in May, and he has two married children who are both Texas A&M alumni and two grandchildren, who are two and six. 

He said he and his wife have special plans for after his retirement.

“We made a bucket list together,” Dahlstrom said. “My wife and I really want to travel the U.S., all 50 states, and see all 254 county courthouses in Texas.”

Dahlstrom said he and his wife are fascinated by nature, Texas and U.S. history. Their planned stops during their travels around the U.S. will include Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii. He said his time at the department has meant a lot of hard work and some difficult times, most notably Sept. 28, 2010, when a student fired shots outside the Perry-Castañeda Library and later died by suicide.

“That was definitely the most stressful day,” Dahlstrom said.

He said, however, the good days have greatly outweighed the bad, and he will miss many things about his job.

“I think the people are what I will miss most,” Dahlstrom said.

Harkins said Dahlstrom has helped the department strengthen relations with neighboring departments, overseen multiple UTPD accreditations and led the way on many UTPD initiatives including the Citizen Police Academy. The academy aims to give the public a better understanding of UTPD.

“He is a rare individual,” Harkins said. “He cares about people. He has got a tremendous capacity to outreach and to find solutions to problems.”

Dahlstrom has been recognized for his work dozens of times throughout his career through awards including the Austin National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Professional Service Award, the “Peacemaker of the Year” award from the Dispute Resolution Center of Texas and the 2012 Chief of the Year award from the University of Texas System.

Printed on Friday, December 6, 2012 as: UTPD chief to retire; replacement search on

UTPD Is searching for a new chief

University of Texas Police Department Chief Robert Dahlstrom will be retiring in May, and the search is on for his replacement.

UTPD posted an ad on the University’s Job Search website Saturday for a new chief of police. Dahlstrom has been chief of the department since 2006. He was with the Austin Police Department for 28 years prior to that.

UT spokesperson Cindy Posey said a committee will be conducting a nationwide search for the new chief, who has many responsibilities within the department.

According to the job listing, the chief is responsible for “effective operation of the UT Police Department through planning, organizing and directing its activities, assuring that law and order is maintained, that state laws are enforced and that measures are implemented to prevent crime and to protect lives and property.”

According to the listing, a bachelor’s degree in an appropriate field; 15 years of experience as a police officer, at least five of which are administrative; multiple licenses; excellent verbal and written communication skills and a reputation for honesty, integrity and high ethical conduct are requirements for the position. 

UT police investigated a break-in at the Main Building Tuesday, and despite police efforts to lure a ‘suspect’ out with french fries, they still managed to escape.

According to UTPD officer Darrell Halstead’s Campus Watch report released Tuesday, several University of Texas Police Department officers responded to alarms in room eight of the Main Building Tuesday around 2:41 a.m. and discovered entry to the office had been made through the ceiling.

According to the report, an air conditioning vent was lying on the floor of the room, along with dust and other ceiling materials. Officers began searching the office and discovered a “masked non-UT subject attempting to hide by hanging onto the wall molding and a window blind.”

According to the report, “The subject refused to comply with the officers requests to come out with his hands up. The subject even refused the officers coaxing when the officer handed over the Jack in the Box french fries. The non-UT subject escaped through an open window and evaded the officers. The non-UT subject was described as: three feet tall, last seen wearing a brown and black stripped (sic) coat, furry gloves and black mask over his eyes.”