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Published: Monday, 3/19/2007

BGSU chief lauded for professionalism

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Chief James Wiegand brought ideas to BGSU he learned during his 28-year career with the Toledo Police Department. Chief James Wiegand brought ideas to BGSU he learned during his 28-year career with the Toledo Police Department.
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BOWLING GREEN - Jim Wiegand doesn't mind being razzed by his former co-workers at the Toledo Police Department about his "cushy" job as chief of the Bowling Green State University Police Department.

He knows his second career is less stressful than the first, but it's one he takes seriously and he doesn't miss the kind of violent crime he saw in his 28 years with TPD.

"When I was in charge of the investigative services bureau, I responded to way too many horrific crimes," he said in a recent interview at his campus office. "Other than our sexual assaults, we haven't had any horrific crimes since I've been here."

Chief Wiegand, 60, is starting his 10th year as head of the 24-officer police department at BGSU. He also oversees the parking department, the student escort program, and the campus shuttle service.

"My title," he said, "is director of public safety, but I like chief of police. I like being a cop."

He is still a sworn police officer and is certified to carry a gun, but he says he rarely does.

Retired from TPD in January, 1998, as assistant chief of police under then-chief Gerald Galvin, he said he left with mixed emotions.

"It was a very difficult move," he said of his arrival at BGSU. But now, after more than nine years, he says it's been a "great experience."

Since arriving on campus, the chief has made a number of changes in the department, including some ideas he brought from Toledo. He implemented a field training officer program that partners new officers with experienced officers for 14 weeks before they are allowed to work on their own.

And he implemented a community policing program, which may be his biggest contribution, according to Jill Carr, interim assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students.

Officers are now interacting in a positive manner with students, offering safety programs in residence halls, and getting to know people "so if there is a problem there are already relationships in place," she said.

Chief Wiegand organized officers into teams who are assigned to three districts on campus creating, in effect, mini precincts in a mini city.

"We are a small city," Chief Wiegand said. "We've got 20,000 people and we sit adjacent to

I-75, a main north-south expressway. It's very easy to gain access to our campus."

Still, acts of violence have been rare during his tenure. The biggest crime problem on campus, the chief said, is alcohol and the behavior that results - disorderly conduct, public urination, disruptions in residence halls, and, at its worst, assaults, both fights and rapes.

Ms. Carr said Chief Wiegand has been a strong proponent of not only law enforcement but of the student discipline process.

"He understands the need for the university to have a disciplinary process and how that's separate from the criminal process," she said, adding, "I think Jim is taking our police department to the next level in terms of standards, in terms of trying to convince the administration he needs a full force."

Bowling Green Police Chief Gary Spencer said the city and university police departments enjoy a good relationship that often brings their officers in contact with each other. Recalling a time when a BGSU student he pulled over asked, "Are you the real police or campus police?" he said he believes Chief Wiegand has improved the image of the university police.

"I don't think we would get that question today because of what Jim's done there," Chief Spencer said.

Chief Wiegand, who is paid $90,437 a year at BGSU, figures he'll work at least through 2008, maybe longer depending on his health and what's going on at the university. He's not looking for a more exciting job, though.

"I can live without it," he said. "My 3 a.m. phone calls are now few and far between. When I was with Toledo, they were if not weekly then every few days."

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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