The University of Tennessee Health Science Center is in the midst of more than $20 million in security upgrades, including a $2 million renovation to an unused building at 807 Jefferson Avenue that will be a new state-of-the-art headquarters for the UTHSC Campus Police Department.
The new facility, located in what was an audiology and speech building, will include offices, training areas, dispatch space, conference rooms, and an indoor firing range in the basement.
The two-story building will also house UTHSC’s Parking Services and have space for the Memphis Police Department’s Community Policing Unit, now located in a separate building on campus. The current campus police headquarters at 740 Court Avenue will be demolished to make room for a proposed new public-private housing development.
UTHSC’s Police Chief Anthony Berryhill said the new facility fits with the university’s strategic plan to improve security on the campus and play a vital role in safety in the entire Memphis Medical District. “As the Medical District area grows, the responsibility of the UTHSC campus police will grow as well,” he said. Berryhill joined UTHSC in October 2016, after more than 30 years with the Memphis Police Department. He retired as deputy director in 2015.
Currently, the UTHSC Campus Police Department has 30 commissioned police officers, who have the same rights and authority as Memphis police officers and Shelby County deputies. The staff also includes 26 security officers, Berryhill said. “Our plan for the university is to increase our staff,” he said.
Berryhill said he has hired five police officers, four security guards, and one dispatcher since he joined the university. Next year, he plans to hire five more police officers, four security officers, and an additional dispatcher. Berryhill said the department is doing more training in house and is working more closely with the Memphis Police Department.
In addition to ensuring safety on the campus, the department also provides a presence in Health Sciences Park and responds to calls at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and Regional One Health.
“Really what we want is the UTHSC police department to function as a precinct like the Memphis Police Department,” said Ken Brown, JD, MPA, PhD, FACHE, the university’s executive vice chancellor and chief operations officer. “The police department is down in the 300 to 350 range for police officers. For us to have employees, who are certified in the same kind of training that MPD goes through, working for the university, and for us to have responsibility for a fair amount of geography, it provides the city a little relief. They don’t have to double the resources in the Medical District.”
Dr. Brown, who serves as board chair of the Memphis Medical District Collaborative, said the university manages external patrols for area hospitals in the district and is working on a proposal to manage hospital security.
UTHSC has received roughly $20 million in state funding to upgrade video security technology, improve wireless and keyless access for all buildings, and outfit an emergency operations center in the lower level of the General Education Building at 8 South Dunlap to monitor security.
“We’ll be able to control access to all of our buildings, going from 300 cameras on campus to about 1,200,” Dr. Brown said. He said UTHSC is working with the MPD Real Time Crime Center, so it will have access to video in the university’s buildings, on campus, and within the Medical District, where UTHSC’s cameras are located.
“We’re very happy about the investment we’ve been able to make in our hardware and technology, in our strategic plan for growing our campus police department, and in Chief Berryhill’s ability to integrate us within the operational framework of the Memphis Police Department,” Dr. Brown said. “So hopefully, all of the entities in the Memphis Medical District will be able to benefit from the investment in security that we’re making.”