Chief Thomas Mackel, the Chief of Police at the University of West Georgia, spoke with students Thursday, Oct. 23 about the recent crimes on campus, social media from a news perspective and racial identifications as it relates to identifying suspects. Chief Mackel, who has been UWG’s Police Chief since 1989, brought insightful, encouraging and helpful hints to students.
Chief Mackel began his presentation with an open questions and answers forum. One student asked him about his thoughts on the Ferguson, Mo. situation with the death of Michael Brown. Mackel gave an unbiased answer, stating that if the officer is guilty, then he should be indicted.
“He’s no better than anybody else,” Mackel said. “But don’t try and convict him in the media before you give the police officer the opportunity.”
Mackel continued to talk about the rights of the media. He spoke on how it is the press’s right to be at the scene of a crime, just not within the actual crime scene behind the yellow police tape.
“The yellow tape, that means no. But can you stand there on the other side of the tape and film? Yes, all you want,” he said. “You have that constitutional right. You are the press and we cannot interfere with your ability to do your job, and really we don’t want to.”
The police want the help of the press and media. That is how they are able to get identifications of wanted suspects out to the public. Authorities are doing the best they can to be as descriptive to the media as possible when describing suspects.
A current issue on the rise is the topic of race. Some victims are identifying races that may not be accurate and are causing confusion with the public.
“We have one job: to catch the bad guy. What you see, what I put out, like the Wolf Alerts that you get, I’m taking exactly what the victim has told me or told the officers.”
The UWG Police Department, as well as the Student Government Association, is planning a safety walk around campus on Nov. 2. Mackel is in encouraging school officials to consider implementing brightly lit pathways throughout parts of campus. These ultra bright pathways would allow for safer travel between parts of campus late at night. Although not every path would be overly lit, Mackel and the UWG Police Department would be encouraging students to take these paths instead of ones that may be shorter.
Mackel also encouraged students to be well prepared in case of attacks. UWG’s student body is predominantly female. Police assume this attracts unwanted guests from outside of campus for unwanted reasons.
“One thing we’re trying to think of is the fact that we are 60% female. That’s a big attraction.”
The police offer their crime logs from the past three years on their website. These logs are used to give the public knowledge of what is going on throughout campus.
“We always recommend people buy two pepper sprays,” he said. “One to practice with and test, because then you know how far that pepper spray is going to go, you know if it’s a fog, stream, or cone and then that way you can use it.”
Students are encouraged to remain cautious and not to travel alone at night. All members of UWG, including faculty and staff, are prompted to utilize the Wolf Guardian program and to be fully alert when walking around campus.