(Rock Hill, S.C.) — This semester, rumors have circulated among students at Winthrop University that Campus Police have been losing officers to the Rock Hill Police Department, which has led to a decline in services.
For example, Taylor Jordan, a junior at Winthrop, expressed concern that staffing issues have resulted in problems with the department’s escort service.
“My experience with Winthrop police’s escort service has been varied. They were very quick and receptive during my freshmen year, but as it got into my second semester sophomore year, they started to take a while and a few times forgot all together,” said Jordan. “But I know they are understaffed, so I understand.”
However, Chief Ken Scoggins, who has worked at Winthrop for 18 years, said there is only a small grain of truth to staffing rumors.
“Staffing issues is a problem that is not only affecting Winthrop University, it’s affecting all of our colleagues and all of our colleague law enforcement agencies across the nation,” said Scoggins.
In a conversation with the Palmetto Report, Scoggins said he wanted to reassure students the Winthrop campus has never been understaffed.
He also said Campus Police answer every request for an escort and have never refused to escort a student.
“When a call comes in (for an escort) to Campus Police, those calls are prioritized by our dispatcher. Now the really anxious, stressful, ‘please come help me, there is trouble’ calls, that goes to the top of the list.
“Sometimes things happen that might would delay that escort…but we are on the way whether it takes us two minutes or whether it takes us 15 minutes. It largely depends on what we have got going on at that time,” Scoggins said.
“We have hired two very experienced officers that started with us March 18. We also hired two other former officers who left for some time, but have come back to join our staff,” he said.
“We do receive many applications for our department, however I thoroughly review these applications to ensure that I am hiring the best person to join our community and campus.”
Recently, Campus Police temporarily stopped the popular Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) classes, but Scoggins said that was due to a lack of officer certification as opposed to understaffing.
“The larger RAD class has been affected because of staffing. In order to give that class, all of our police officers (have to) be RAD certified,” he said.
“RAD is a national brand and you have to actually send the officer to the RAD training to be able to teach the class. A couple of our officers who were certified did leave Winthrop for different reasons, such as moving and retirement.”
Scoggins said when a student calls looking for a defense class, police direct them to other resources on campus or in Rock Hill.
He said the department is taking steps to hire additional officers and will continue to provide service to the Winthrop community.
* Madeline Brooks, Payton Elmore and Isabelle Schmidt contributed to this story.