Michael A. Gibson, a 25-year veteran of the UVA Police Department, was recently appointed chief of police.
What have you learned from the shootings at Virginia Tech?
With those incidents, we break them down into small pieces and figure out what difficulties they experienced and how we would respond in terms of protocol. The best thing you can do as a department is prepare yourself to minimize the damages that could result. I won’t get into the actual changes that we’ve made, but situations like that are evaluated constantly in this business. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior and situations like that take it completely out of the normal realm.
How has student behavior changed since you started in 1982?
Student behavior was, in general, a little worse than it is now. The problem is that there’s a smaller percentage of folks now whose behavior is just way out of whack from the majority of the group. There were more abuses of alcohol back in the early ’80s, whereas now that number is much smaller but they’re more secret. If you look historically at the crime trend, the number of reported incidents this year is way down from what it was.
The types of crimes have changed. The electronic age has added a whole new dimension that we didn’t deal with in the past—hackers and identity theft issues and the theft of electronic data.
What’s the biggest challenge that the UVA Police Department faces on Grounds?
With the opening of the John Paul Jones Arena, special events have become much more regular and much more demanding on our staffing levels. The day-to-day staff is in great shape. But when we get hammered repeatedly by events that require a great number of people to manage them too frequently, it causes stress on our system.
What’s the best thing about your job?
The best part of my job is being a part of this school. The excitement of all the events and just the ability to be part of that is a lot of fun for me.