The Fort Hays State University Police Department can trace its history back to the days of World War II (circa 1942), when the then Fort Hays Kansas State College hired a night watchman to patrol the buildings after hours to ensure security of Fort Hays Kansas State College buildings. Documentation of the history of the Fort Hays State University Police Department is vague at best, but an archived article from the December 1955 issue of "Alumni News" talks about the rapid rise in enrollment and related traffic and parking issues facing Fort Hays Kansas State College. As a means to effectively deal with those issues and at the recommendation of the Student Council, in the fall of 1955, Fort Hays Kansas State College hired its first patrolman, who was a former City of Hays police officer. This patrolman operated under the direction of the FHKSC Dean of Men and Women.
As Fort Hays itself progressed from a college to a university, the initial FHSC Traffic and Security Office, likewise evolved into what is now known as the Fort Hays State University Police Department. In 1970, the Kansas Legislature passed a state law allowing the executive officer of any state educational institution the authority to employ university police officers who were vested with the same law enforcement powers as their city police counterparts. As a result of this legislation, from that time on, University Police Officers across the State of Kansas have had full law enforcement powers on property owned and operated by their respective universities, as well as having full law enforcement powers on property, streets, and highways immediately adjacent to the campus of their respective state educational institutions.
With its complete law enforcement authority, and with the ever changing nature of crime, the FHSU Police Department has had to evolve and improve to stay ahead of the game. The duties of today's FHSU Police Officers have exponentially increased over those of the officers from the early FHSC Traffic and Security years. Officers are now responsible for a full range of public safety services, such as: Criminal investigations, crime prevention and security awareness programs, enforcement of criminal statues and city ordinances, and collection of data for the required statistical crime reports, i.e., the Clery Act, and the F.B.I.'s Uniform Crime Reporting. Additionally, University Police Officers also conduct motor vehicle accident investigations and complete associated Kansas Department of Transportation accident reports. In addition to this, University Police Officers also are responsible for initiating civil commitments for person(s) in need of car, and for providing traffic and parking enforcement, emergency management, enforcement of Fort Hays State University rules and regulations and security of Fort Hays State University's physical assets. The FHSU Police Department refers statutory violations for judicial oversight and prosecution to Municipal, District, and Federal Courts.
Currently, Fort Hays State University Police Officers are commissioned by the State of Kansas under K.S.A. 76-726 and have the same law enforcement authority and responsibilities as local police and sheriff's deputies. the FHSU Police Department has primary jurisdiction over all property owned or controlled by Fort Hays State University. A Memorandum of Agreement with the City of Hays grants statutory jurisdiction to the FHSU Police Department law enforcement powers with in the City of Hays, as well. It should also be mentioned that all officers of the FHSU Police Department are issued Sheriff's Deputy cards from the Ellis County Sheriff. These cards make FHSU's University Police Officers duly authorized members of the Ellis County Sheriff's Department, thereby extending the law enforcement authority of the FHSU Police Officers to anywhere in Ellis County.
These additional law enforcement powers and responsibilities come at a cost, however, as FHSU Police Officers, just like all other law enforcement officers across the State of Kansas, must be certified by the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center, and maintain their law enforcement certification by attending at least forty hours of law enforcement training annually. Typically, however, FHSU Police Officers annually attend much more than the minimum forty hours of training required to remain certified. As training requirements for FHSU Police Officers have increased, so have hiring requirements for prospective Fort Hays State University Police Department officers. Applicants for University Police Officer positions must now undergo rigorous assessments, which include: two oral interviews with a hiring board, cognitive testing, physical agility testing, a polygraph, psychological testing, a physical examination, drug screening and an extensive background check.
As a commitment to public safety, Fort Hays State University approved funding for the FHSU Center of Public Safety (C.O.P.S.) in February of 2006. Renovation began at the lower level of Custer Hall (north wing) in September of 2007, with completion and move-in during the month of March 2008. The FHSU Center of Public Safety, a facility comprising approximately 5,241 square feet, provides a controlled and secure environment for the convergence of all FHSU Police Department operations, including: law enforcement, public safety education, emergency management and planning, and public safety communications for the University. The C.O.P.S. facility houses a variety of essentials, such as: a state-of-the-art interview room for forensic interview, a training and conference area, administrative offices, dispatch, a patrol section, investigative sections for computer forensics, and is home to Ellis County High Technology Crime Unit.
Several of the areas within the C.O.P.S. facility were designed for versatility and multiple uses. As an example, the mediated training room features twenty phone lines, wireless connectivity to the university networks, access to the Kansas Criminal Justice Information System, a virtual private network for the FHSU Police Department records management system, and Web Emergency Operation Center (EOC) management software with direct connectivity to the Adjutant General's Center in Topeka, Kansas. The FHSU C.O.P.S. facility represents the primary location for both the FHSU's Emergency Operations Center and the Multidisciplinary Threat Assessment Team, and it offers a secondary location for the Ellis County Emergency Operations Center. Additionally, the University Police Department dispatch center is designated as the secondary Public Service Answering Point (PSAP) and dispatch center for Ellis County.
"High-tech/high-touch," a term often used to describe FHSU's learning environment, has an entirely different connotation as it relates to the University Police Department and its officers. Coupled with the Department's abilities relating to computer forensics, a new and ever-expanding closed-circuit television (CCTV) application within various buildings on campus can be remotely monitored in the dispatch area of the C.O.P.S. Additionally, with the anticipated merger of the FHSU Police Department's existing mobile data applications with FHSU's wireless network, University Police Officers should soon be able to remotely view the emerging CCTV applications in those areas. As an example, if a hold-up alarm is activated at the Commerce Bank branch office in the Memorial Union, FHSU Police Department dispatch and officers in the patrol cars will be able to view the situation as it takes place, lending valuable information as to what is taking place and how best to deal with the situation.
Although the Fort Hays State University Police Department over-the-years has advanced and improved from what was essentially a building security and traffic control force, to what is now a professional multi-purpose law enforcement and public safety agency. It must be said that FHSU and its University Police Department both realize that maintaining the status quo is simply unacceptable, and therefore, the FHSU Police Department will continually strive to improve and to modernize, in order to meet new threats and provide its clientele with a safe and learning environment.