MTSU Police Department down 9 positions - WSMV News 4

MTSU Police Department down 9 positions

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Emails obtained by the News 4 I-Team raise questions about staffing within a university police department.

The I-Team discovered an officer worked alone on patrol twice during summer semester. The MTSU campus spans more than 500 acres.

The chief of the MTSU Police Department said what happened this summer should never happen again.

"To have one person working patrol is really not a good thing," said Chief Buddy Peaster. "We want to at least have a couple of people around."

A supervisor wrote in the email, "This should not have happened...this is not acceptable."

Peaster said now officers must tell a supervisor if they find themselves alone.

"Now we've taken steps to make sure that never happens again," Peaster said.

MTSU spokesman Jimmy Hart said 22,050 students were enrolled at MTSU in 2016. The latest enrollment numbers are still being finalized.

Peaster could not say when those solo shifts took place. But the MTSU crime log shows even during the summer, incidents do happen. The crimes ranged from evading arrest to domestic assault to hit and run.

This spring a series of deadly shootings near campus sparked security concerns. Within a week, News 4 counted eight shots fired calls near the university.

While Murfreesboro Police handled these shootings, MTSU Police can also patrol areas close to campus.

"It's only a matter of time until someone gets shot on campus," said student Michael Linn White in May.

Devon Barnes spoke to News 4 in May, as well. She lives close to the university and the scene of the shooting.

"I'm planning to move sooner or later if this keeps happening," Barnes said in May.

As of Sept. 1, 35 officers were employed by MTSU Police, according to data provided by Peaster.

But Peaster said he would like more officers on the streets. He estimated four to five officers currently work every patrol shift. He said he would like to see eight officers at a time.

Peaster said many new officers are undergoing training, which is why they can't work patrol.

Between September 2016 and 2017, nine officers left the department.

Between September 2015 and 2016, four officers left the department.

Between September 2014 and 2016, two officers left the department.

"Is there a problem keeping officers on this police department?" asked reporter Alanna Autler.

"There is not a problem keeping them," Peaster said. "I think running forward, we could run into that."

Peaster said he lost most of the officers to competing departments offering higher salaries. He said he would discuss the pay issues with the Board of Trustees later this month.

"Are these issues potentially putting students at risk on campus?" Autler asked.

“I don't believe so," Peaster said. "When we have someone who leaves or a couple of people who leave that doesn't bring us to critical levels of service.”

On Monday, MTSU President Sidney McPhee signed an agreement, pledging MTSU and Murfreesboro Police would work together to fight crime in the area.

If approved, the plan would give MTSU more authority to work with Murfreesboro Police outside campus, especially at nearby apartment complexes where students live.

MPD has already increased patrols in those areas, according to spokesman Sgt. Kyle Evans.

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