The University of Texas Police Department is increasing the size of its force and adding new positions to the department, including a sexual assault detective in the investigations unit.
UTPD Lt. Charles Bonnet said the decision to expand the department is a result of the University’s growth, especially the Dell Medical School. Currently, the department has 68 officers and aims to reach 100 within the next few years.
Bonnet said hiring a new detective will help increase investigative capabilities on campus and provide more safety measures for the growing number of students.
“Given the expertise required in investigations of sexual assault, it made sense that the additional detective specialize in that area,” Bonnet said. “The hope is that the specialization and focus will ensure our investigations are the best possible.”
The department selected Officer Samantha Carter for the position, and she will begin this month. Carter is unavailable for comment about her new position at this time.
Bonnet said she was hired based on her experience as a patrol officer and her performance in the selection process. He said he believes employing a female in this position will be most effective when helping victims.
Twenty-three percent of female college students report experiencing some form of unwanted sexual contact, according to a survey by the Association of American Universities.
“With a majority of victims of sexual assaults being female, our hope is that speaking to a female detective will make the survivor feel more at ease,” Bonnet said.
Grace Gilker, director of the Women’s Resource Agency and Plan II and history sophomore, said she believes the new detective will be a beneficial resource and will help combat sexual assault on campus.
“Sexual assault cases are some of the hardest cases to prosecute and this administrative shift will help both survivors and officers,” Gilker said.
Bonnet said another goal of having a sexual assault expert on the team is to enhance crime prevention efforts and safety initiatives, such as the Rape Aggression Defense program.
Jackson Miller, classical archaeology and liberal arts senior, said he hopes UTPD’s recent hire of a sexual assault detective will lead to more officers becoming better trained on these issues but is not sure how helpful the change will be initially.
“There is a lot outside of the police force that prevents survivors from reporting and talking about their experiences,” Miller said. “I think that this is an important first step at helping survivors.”
In addition to the new detective, The Blueprint for Campus Police is a report developed by UT researchers and police officers, which was released Feb. 29 addressing how law enforcement should respond to sexual assault.
Bonnet said the blueprint is helpful for the department because it clearly explains several aspects of an investigation that can be confusing. According to the University of Texas System website, the blueprint encourages a “victim-centered” approach to the crime and helps police understand their role in addressing assault cases.