Julie Gillespie

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Julie Gillespie

Ten women serve as officers win UTPD, making up 16 percent of the staff, and that number is higher than the national average of 13 percent among police departments nationwide.

Julie Gillespie started her career at UTPD in 1987 as a security guard after graduating from UT with an education degree.

Gillespie, now retired, worked at UTPD for 28 years in multiple positions. During her tenure, Gillespie became the first female lieutenant and the first female captain. 

When Gillespie started working at UTPD, she said there were a handful of female officers and only two female sergeants. 

“I remember going to training classes and staff meetings where I was the only female, but, since then, I think policing has taken a very strong part in recruiting women,” Gillespie said. “It was tough, but you have to realize we’re all the same, and everybody wants the same thing and are working toward the same goals.” 

Diversity in the workplace is important regardless of the industry because it brings different perspectives to the job, according to Gillespie. 

“Women bring a totally different perspective to policing,” Gillespie said. “Usually you have to have the brut and the physical strength, but women bring more intellect, and they think through things, and we’re not so quick to get into physical fights because we’re trying to use our brain instead of our strength, so it’s good to have both.” 

When Gillespie left UTPD, she said 22 percent of the sworn officers were women. As more women joined the force, Gillespie said she and other female officers helped mentor them. 

“All the women were kind of a tight knit-group, and I still catch up with some of the women that went on to other jobs,” Gillespie said. “I still keep in touch with them and mentor them. It’s fulfilling to mentor young officers.”

Gillespie helped mentor and welcome  Lt. Laura Davis when she first came to work for UTPD. Davis started her career at UTPD after selling diamonds in a jewelry store while she was waiting for her application to be processed for the Secret Service, she said.

After meeting her husband during her training at the police academy and having a child, Davis said she decided to stay at UTPD because she liked the work she was doing.

Although female officers are a minority in the makeup of UTPD’s force, Davis said she doesn’t notice it often.

“It’s noticeable, but it’s not,” Davis said. “I’ve got several females on my shift, and so it’s funny because we don’t have many people in the locker room. You’re so used to doing your job, so you’re not really thinking about it.”

Rhetoric and writing senior Bria Moore said she has only seen female officers a few times, but, when she does see them, she notices them immediately. 

“Female officers do catch my eye because they are female, and it’s still a slightly unusual thing to see,” Moore said. “This isn’t prime-time TV where every other cop is some strong-willed, independent yet always gorgeous phenom. Many workplaces are still pretty gendered.” 

Besides working the evening shift, Davis is the coordinator for the Rape Aggression Defense System for UT and the rest of Texas. Putting on the three-day class allows Davis to empower other women and females on campus, she said. 

“What we get to do is teach self defense to women across campus, and I’m very proud that UT is such a strong supporter in that program,” Davis said. “You know a lot of the students who come here come from a small town, and they’re meeting new friends and having their experiences, but what we’ve said is we believe in this program so much we want to teach self defense so they can rely on themselves and feel safe on campus.” 

Davis said she started teaching the class in 2001 and said she enjoys helping other women protect themselves. 

“In those three days, you see a true reliance on themselves that they didn’t know they had, and it’s just life-changing,” Davis said. “You may get a girl who’s never said no, and then on that third night, she’s in a situation where she has to fight her way out, and you see this change, and she’s very proud. It’s not that see didn’t have that in her before, but it’s just a different aspect.”

Tony Smith’s 1965 sculpture “Amaryllis” stands covered in a tarp after being vandalized by pro Texas A&M graffiti Sunday night. 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Six on-campus locations were tagged with pro-Texas A&M graffiti over the weekend — the latest in a string of Aggie-related graffiti incidents dating back to 2011, according to police officials. 

University Operations spokeswoman Rhonda Weldon said a UT staff member reported the graffiti to UTPD around 4:45 a.m. Sunday. The graffiti included various promotional A&M phrases and slogans, such as “Gig em’ Aggies” and “Saw ‘Em Off.” Officers checked the campus for suspects and other signs of criminal activity, but did not find anything. Facilities Services crews began to remove the graffiti the following morning.

According to a list provided by UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey, the east and north walls of the Performing Arts Center, west side of the LBJ Library, east side of the Thompson Conference Center and west side of the E. William Doty Fine Arts Building were vandalized. Tony Smith’s 1965 sculpture “Amaryllis” — situated outside the fine arts building — was also tagged. 

Weldon said the Texas Memorial Museum statue and a public art installation on loan from The Metropolitan Museum of Art were also damaged.

Despite the fact that Texas A&M left the Big 12 football conference in 2011, and no longer plays UT in an annual game, incidents of Aggie-related graffiti have persisted every October for the last two years.

On Oct. 23, 2011, unknown perpetrators tagged the north-side wall of the Weaver Power Plant Annex and the bridge connecting the Winship Drama Building to San Jacinto Boulevard. In addition, crosshairs were sprayed on an east-side wall of the drama building, and a phallic depiction was painted next to Donald Lipski’s East Mall monument “The West.” 

Prominent UT landmarks were also defaced in October 2012. They included the wall perimeter of the UT Tower, the windows of the Flawn Academic Center and the statues of Jefferson Davis and Woodrow Wilson in front of the Tower. Lipski’s sculpture was tagged for the second time.

UTPD Capt. Julie Gillespie said A&M graffiti is nothing new, especially around football season. Although the rivalry is over, Gillespie said UTPD will treat these incidents as a trend moving forward and will continue to work closely with A&M’s police department to catch the vandals.

“We work very closely with the Texas A&M police department,” Gillespie said. “We’ll send all of our reports to A&M, and hopefully they can yield a result over there.”

Gillespie said tagging buildings or monuments with graffiti is a state jail felony. According to the police report, the damage estimate for Sunday’s vandalism is roughly $525.

Gillespie said prior to every A&M-UT football game in years past, UTPD would initiate an “Aggie Watch” to monitor for football-fueled pranks.

The department has only issued one citation for criminal mischief related to A&M graffiti since 2011, Gillespie said. A Texas A&M student was cited on April 14 for scrawling A&M-related graffiti around the campus in chalk. According to a police report from the incident, the student allegedly committed the vandalism as part of a scavenger hunt organized by the Texas A&M chapter of the Sigma Lambda Beta fraternity.

EMS graphic for The University of Texas at Austin ambulance
Photo Credit: Jack Mitts | Daily Texan Staff

Emergency response vehicles navigate through traffic on Guadalupe Street with sirens blaring on a regular basis. There’s a chance they’re headed to an urgent scene, but more likely, the barrage of trucks is dealing with something simple — something most students will never hear about — because even in cases of minor incidents, emergency response personnel tend to work together.

When a student is injured on campus and a 911 call is placed, this call triggers a process involving the coordination of two police departments, Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Service and the Austin Fire Department. Even a minor student injury will catalyze a process dependent on thousands of variables and complex matrices. The student will then likely meet firefighters, EMS workers and a UTPD officer within minutes. 

The first variable that affects the path of a 911 call is geographic — where the call was placed determines who receives it. On-campus landline 911 calls go straight to UTPD, but the majority of emergency requests, made on cell phones, are routed to the nearest city Public Safety Access Point. 

Adam Johnson, acting division chief of Austin-Travis County EMS, said the routing is based on cell phone tower geography. 

“If you hit in one of the areas on campus where you’ll hit a cell phone tower not associated with UT, you’ll be routed to APD,” Johnson said.

Calls about incidents on campus are transferred back to UTPD. 

Once the call has been transferred to the appropriate agency, UTPD dispatchers will ask questions and conference in the Austin Fire Department and EMS, if necessary. To avoid confusion, only one dispatcher asks questions. After a round of initial questioning, AFD or EMS will take over as secondary dispatchers. 

“It’s confusing [for the caller] to have more than one person on the line,” Johnson said. “Typically these are chaotic calls. So we’ll take the lead on the phone — but we work hand in hand [with other agencies].”

The call process and response process as a whole require fluid cooperation between all three agencies. In cases of injury, firemen can often respond faster than EMS workers. In cases of crime, police are required to secure the scene before medical intervention. 

This was the case on Sept. 25, when 22-year-old Chenxi Deng stabbed UT graduate student Li You in the face with a metal fork in the Engineering Sciences Building. 

“We work together as a team, so if somebody’s been stabbed, the ambulance isn’t going to go in until the police have secured the scene,” Johnson said. “We don’t carry weapons.”

Even a hypothetical student falling down stairs would likely result in a response from all three agencies because the fire department has greater resources and usually arrives on the scene before EMS, UTPD Captain Julie Gillespie said.

“If you fell down the stairs, we’re going to respond as police because we want to make a report and know why, but EMS and fire are all responding,” Gillespie said. “If it’s a medical call that comes out, we’re all going to roll.”

Johnson said EMS system deployment relies on the fire department as first responders.

“There are roughly twice as many of them as there are of us,” Johnson said.

For priority-one calls, which include life-threatening conditions such as cardiac arrest, the average EMS response time for incidents on the UT campus was 8 minutes and 15 seconds during the 2012 fiscal year.

In comparison, the Austin Fire Department was on the scene in 4 minutes and 30 seconds.

Once an EMS dispatcher takes the lead in a given emergency call, they will ask a series of questions, and the caller’s answers result in a formulaic determination of how many cars and supervisors to send to the scene. 

Austin-Travis County EMS uses an international system and more than 1,700 different response determinants, including cause of injury and number of people involved in the situation, when responding to an emergency call.

Johnson said EMS dispatchers avoid making intuitive or subjective decisions.

“Our responses are very proscribed, we use a set protocol process,” Johnson said. “We want to have a consistent response, so we try to take as much of the subjectivity — the ‘it doesn’t sound so bad, maybe I won’t send a fire truck’ response — out of the process.”

Similar to the computer-generated responses of EMS, the Austin Fire Department uses the Computer Aided Dispatch system to determine the scope of the response it sends out in a given situation, according to AFD public information officer Michelle Tanzola.

“All buildings of five or more floors are tracked in the CAD system, and [it] will alert our dispatchers when a call has been generated at one of these addresses,” Tanzola said. 

Both firefighters and UTPD are aware of the buildings that might contain hazardous materials.

Gillespie said the campus’ chemistry buildings usually generate a more significant response.

“If it’s Welch, they’re going to send more trucks,” Gillespie said. 

Though EMS and AFD determine responses largely through computers, UTPD personnel largely rely on police standards and training when determining the appropriate response to an emergency call.

“If we get an in-progress call, we’ll usually send two officers, almost no matter what,” Gillespie said. “In our training, what we’re taught is to always have a backup.”

A supervisor might also call for additional police units if the situation presents a risk of escalating danger or involves criminal activity on campus, Gillespie said.

UTPD’s presence in an emergency situation on campus is almost immediate, in large part because the University’s police department’s headquarters are on campus, according to UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey.

“With UTPD, it’s a question of blocks, not miles,” Posey said.

When Captain Julie Gillespie joined the UT Police Department in 1986, not only was she one of the few women working in a male-dominated workplace, but she was also gay.

“Pretty much almost immediately I was out at work and I probably was not the first lesbian that worked there but was the first one to be out,” Gillespie said at a panel last week titled “Living with Pride: Out at Work.”

For those in the LGBT community, coming out at work presents a set of social, moral and legal implications. While Gillespie describes her experience with the University and within the police department as “nothing but positive,” many struggle with the decision of whether or not to come out at work.

The “Living with Pride” panel hosted by the Gender & Sexuality Center, the Sanger Learning Center and UT Residential Life was just one of several events on campus last week organized to mark National Coming Out Week and National Coming Out Day on Thursday. Coming out in the open about one’s sexual orientation is often associated with its effect on friends and families, not bosses and supervisors.

Amanda Ritter, president of the GLBTQA Business Student Association, said deciding to not hide one’s sexual orientation at work can be a challenging but rewarding decision for many LGBT students.

“Not all students are comfortable and confident because this country is still in the process of accepting the LGBTQ community,” Ritter said. “Therefore, a lot of students do struggle. A lot of students that choose to come out, including myself, do so because we don’t want to hide any part of who we are. It just makes things easier to enjoy your job, too.”

In Texas, the legal implications can be especially threatening to LGBT employees. Cary Franklin, assistant professor at the UT School of Law, specializes in employment discrimination.

Franklin said Texas’ labor laws do not defend openly gay employees from discrimination.

“It is legal, under state law, to terminate employees on the basis of sexual orientation,” Franklin said.

Fortunately for students at UT, Austin is one of several Texas cities that have passed bans on employment discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, Franklin said.

Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and El Paso have passed similar laws. In the 2011 Texas legislative session, Rep. Mike Villarreal D-San Antonio and Rep. Marisa Marquez D-El Paso, respectively, authored a bill to enact a statewide ban on such discrimination, but the bill failed to get out of committee.

Music senior Torsten Knabe said coming out at work is important for reasons far more personal than simply the legal aspects involved.

“People are most productive when they feel they are in a healthy, friendly environment that accepts them for who they are,” Knabe said. “You want people to be able to bring their identity to the table versus having to hide themselves.”

For her part, UTPD Captain Julie Gillespie said she doesn’t see herself as a role model to LGBT youth, but hopes her example can show that coming out at work can be a positive experience.

“I think as individuals, as we come out and are able to see people on TV and people in high positions coming out and it being okay and it being supported, then I think it helps them as they struggle with the issues of coming out in a workplace or at home or wherever,” Gillespie said.


Printed on Monday, October 15, 2012 as: Panel explores new side of 'coming out'

UTPD has joined forces with the FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force to investigate the ongoing student kidnapping and accident phone scams. Managed by the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force is a group of local law enforcement and intelligence.

Since June, four UT families have come forward saying someone contacted them on the phone using a fake or blocked number, claiming that their student had either been kidnapped or hurt and was in immediate need of money. When the involved families investigated, they found their student had not actually been hurt or harmed. UTPD Captain Julie Gillespie said UTPD contacted federal authorities about a week ago. She said authorities have been working on similar scam cases all over the U.S. for the past two to three years.

Gillespie said there is no way to know for certain where the scammers are obtaining their victims’ information.

“When we became aware of the incidents involving UT students’ families, we immediately began investigating how information has been obtained,” she said. “To this point we have made no specific link to UT. Much public information can be obtained via the World Wide Web.”

In two recent incidents, the caller claimed students had been injured in a car accident, according to the UT alumni magazine The Alcalde. Two calls in June claimed students had been kidnapped. In each case, a voice with a foreign accent asked that a sum of money be deposited in a foreign bank account.

UT spokeswoman Rhonda Weldon said UT and UTPD are using many means of communication to reach out to anyone affiliated with UT to prevent them from becoming victims of the scam. Weldon said UTPD has shared information using email and social media as well as releasing a media advisory. She said UT alumni magazine the Alcalde and Texas Parents have also published articles informing UT parents of the scams.

“UTPD shared this information via email, social media and a media advisory,” Weldon said. “In addition, The Alcalde (the alumni magazine) and the Texas Parents association published articles.”

Investigators have asked for any families who have been victims of the scam to contact UTPD at 512-471-4441.

A security camera caught footage of a suspect in an attempted sexual assault that happened at the entrance of Roberts Hall Dormitory Sunday morning at 1:25 am, UTPD Capt. Julie Gillespie said.

The suspect is described as an Asian male who is approximately 5’4” tall with a thin build and medium-length black hair combed to the right. He was wearing black-rimmed glasses. UTPD posted pictures on Facebook of the suspect captured from the security camera, asking for any information regarding the suspect.

“He was in the video with her,” Gillespie said. “We’re not going to go into detail on what was on the video, but he was associated with her in the video.”

On Friday, an armed robbery was reported just off of campus, where a single handgun was used to steal from a UT student. Gillespie said the two crimes are not connected and that there is not an increase in crime.

“We’re not seeing any major upswing in crime,” Gillespie said. “I would say it’s just a coincidence.”

An aggravated assault and armed robbery involving a UT student occurred at 3:23 a.m. near Trinity Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard.

UTPD Captain Julie Gillespie said the suspects were four black males wearing bandannas and left the scene of the crime driving north on San Jacinto in a white Acura.

Police were notified of the incident when the robbed student flagged down a passing UTPD squad car, Gillespie said.

The weapon used in the robbery was a single handgun, Gillespie said, though she could not give details on what was stolen because it is an ongoing investigation.

“It was personal effects that he had on him,” Gillespie said. “They went through his pockets.”

To alert students to stay away from the area, UT sent emergency text messages to students at 3:52 am and again at 4:36 to report the suspects had left the area.