Last Thursday, Vanderbilt University police officer Jordan Thompson was arrested on charges of gun possession while under the influence, supplying alcohol to minors and lying to Metro Nashville police officers. Following the arrest, Thompson resigned. The Hustler spoke with VUPD Assistant Chief of Police Rick Burr about how the department handles officer misconduct.
Vanderbilt Hustler: What processes are in place to prevent situations like the one that occurred here? In other words, what rules were violated in this situation?
Rick Burr: Vanderbilt University has numerous policies and procedures in place to forbid its staff from not only violating the law, which was allegedly done in this instance, but also from exhibiting behavior that shed a negative light on the agency and the University. Additionally, sworn and certified law enforcement officers take an oath of office upon being commissioned as an officer in the state of Tennessee, which holds them to a certain set of standards.
VH: What do the hiring processes for VUPD officers and CSO officers look like?
RB: Vanderbilt University conducts a thorough background investigation on all employees to include CSO’s and Police Officers. VUPD conducts a separate and additional background investigation, in which criminal and driving histories are reviewed, as well as checking previous references and employers. VUPD police officers must also pass a drug screen and psychological test.
VH: How would you respond to Vanderbilt students who do not place as much faith in VUPD officers and CSO officers after this incident?
RB: Why should students trust that these officers are protecting them? This was an isolated incident that should not reflect on the department on a whole. The Vanderbilt University Police Department is dedicated to the Vanderbilt community and takes its role in providing a safe and secure environment for students, staff and faculty very seriously.
VH: Is VUPD taking actions in the future to prevent situations like this? In what ways does this incident affect future behaviors and practices?
RB: Vanderbilt University Police Department provides consistent and on-going training to both its Police Officers and Community Service Officers. Training from ethics, critical decision making and policy and procedure is covered annually.