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Ohio State police officer presents at national safety summit

University experience is applicable to local, state and national organizations

Cassi Shaffer has been a police officer at The Ohio State University Police Division (OSUPD) since 2008. Two years ago, she successfully completed the Department of Homeland Security’s National Threat Evaluation and Reporting Program Office’s behavioral threat assessment program, earning the Master Trainer designation.

“The whole goal for me was to help get my community training and information that could help us all stay safe,” Detective Shaffer said.

Cassi ShafferIn January, Shaffer shared her expertise with a larger audience at the second annual Master Trainer Summit. The event, held in Washington, D.C., featured presentations from public safety professionals at the local, state and federal levels.

“It offered us all an opportunity to look at operations at different levels in threat assessment, from different points of view from around the country,” she said.

Shaffer spoke about her work at Ohio State, which has focused on creating programming that helps university faculty and staff understand what concerning behaviors should be reported and how to do so. The biggest hurdle, she said, is the reticence people feel about reporting.

“That’s a natural feeling,” she said. “All of us feel that. The training helps you remove your heart from the situation and gives you an objective view of the behavior you’re seeing.”

The other part of the training is helping participants understand how the reporting process works.

“What will we do with that information? What does it look like if you send me something?” she said. “I tell people all the time: We realize that most things that are reported don’t amount to anything. But we would rather look at a thousand hours of social media and determine there’s no issue than miss that one thing.”

Shaffer stressed in her presentation that reports are handled conscientiously.

“We’re going to be careful and considerate with the information brought to us. We know there are ramifications,” she said. “We have to handle all those calls professionally and ensure we’re doing it in such a way that no harm is caused.”

Shaffer was happy with how to presentation was received – pleasantly surprised, even.

“I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, because I don’t have a Ph.D. behind my name,” she said. “In this group of individuals, there’s a lot of letters behind everyone’s names. I received a lot of positive feedback for Ohio State and the information I presented about our team. It was humbling.”

There was one person at the summit whose assessment meant the most to Shaffer: Mario Scalora, a professor of psychology at the University of Nebraska, who is an expert in the field.

“He is a person who, no matter if you’re a police officer like myself or you’re in the FBI, you know who he is. His work has helped continue the evolution of threat assessment,” she said. “He stopped and talked to me and said, ‘You did a great job. These are the things I’m really glad you highlighted.’ I’m trying to be cool but inside, I’m like, ‘This is incredible.’”

In the end, what Shaffer enjoyed most about the summit was making connections with other organizations, both those she could learn from and those with which she could share her experience. Police work is often siloed, she said, because the work is jurisdictional. That makes information sharing all the more important.

“[The presentations] inspired me to think more broadly about our partners, not just here at Ohio State but also outside the university. You know, only 16,000 students live on campus. Everyone else lives off-campus. When you talk about our community, it’s not just Ohio State. Ohio is concentric circles: You have Ohio State, then you have Franklin County and it gets bigger and bigger and you realize that all these efforts require partnership.”

OSUPD has an authorized strength of 70 sworn police officers and is supported by non-sworn security and technology, including more than 5,000 surveillance cameras and a 9-1-1 dispatch center located on campus. The university’s Department of Public Safety works closely with local, state and federal partners, including the Columbus Division of Police.

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