Police departments part ways

By Kalli Wolf, Staff Writer

Cheney Police Department and EWU Police Department have worked closely together for many years. However, EWU PD made some changes last November that resulted in a separation between the two departments.

Cheney PD provided EWU PD with dispatch services for several years, but being on the same frequency proved to be inefficient and not in the best interest of the university as a whole.

“We are isolated out here. Cheney [PD] and [EWU PD] were the only people on this particular frequency,” said Deputy Chief Gary Gasseling of EWU PD.

The difficulty was neither EWU PD nor Cheney PD had any connection with the larger community, which proved problematic due to a lack of knowledge on what was going on outside of Cheney and who was responding to what situation.

Gasseling said police officers from surrounding areas are frequently in Cheney due to the crime lab. Before EWU PD switched dispatch services, there was no way for surrounding police departments to get in contact with EWU or Cheney PD if necessary.

“They would have to search through the radios and try to find a channel,” said Gasseling, as there was no common channel connected with the larger community at the time.

Gasseling said EWU PD knew they had to be able to grow bigger.

EWU PD is now dispatched by the county. “It was strictly a business decision,” Gasseling said.

Being dispatched by the county allows EWU PD to hear what is happening in Airway Heights, Liberty Lake and other surrounding areas. Gasseling said this is important because it keeps EWU PD in the loop.

The change in preparation was made to give EWU PD “the ability to respond more appropriately and just be good business partners with our larger community,” Gasseling said.

One main difference between EWU PD and Cheney PD, according to both Gasseling and Cheney’s Chief of Police John Hensley of Cheney PD, is the way each department deals with students.

“The university police department is really good in establishing relationships with the students,” Hensley said.

Hensley said Cheney PD sees students as just citizens — the same as everybody else. Because of this, he said Cheney PD is not as involved in creating relationships with students. “We’re into problem solving and moving onto the next call,” he said.

Each year, EWU PD is randomly assigned a residence hall to respond to and watch over. “We really emphasize with our officers: Get to know your clientele; get to know your students,” Gasseling said.

In dealing with students, Gasseling said EWU PD takes a more understanding approach. He said the department wants students to graduate with one record — a college degree.

“I think we take a more community-oriented approach,” said Gasseling. “We are not going to throw you in jail and move onto the next one.”

Another difference between the two departments is what issues they respond to. Although EWU PD’s primary responsibility is responding to situations on campus, they do not have any limitations as to what they can or cannot do.

“We have the same authority as every police officer in the state of Washington; we have statewide authority,” Gasseling said. However, issues outside of campus do belong to Cheney PD.

Despite EWU PD’s recent switch to county dispatch and their different styles in handling situations, the relationship between the two departments has remained intact.

“If they need us, we’re there and if we need them, they’re here. In that regard, nothing has really changed,” Hensley said.

Although the two departments have gone their separate ways, they still work very closely together. “Our work relationship hasn’t changed; we still work hand in hand because we’re dealing with the same students,” Gasseling said.

“It has created additional steps in the process to get help to one another, but it’s not a significant issue,” Hensley said.