A&M-SA police officer receives victims advocate credentials
University police officer Karen Tucker is now better equipped to point crime victims to the correct resources.
Tucker received her national credentials to aid in victims assistance in May 2018. Tucker took a 40-hour course online to receive credentialing to be a resource for students of Texas A&M University-San Antonio.
The course is offered by the National Advocate Credentialing Program.
Tucker said she understands it can be a traumatic and hard process going through the court system or being a victim of any type of crime. She is able to help students understand their rights and get them to the right resource as their case progresses through the system.
Tucker and assistant police chief Roger Stearns said it is important to have a victims advocate coordinator here now that A&M-SA has dorms with students and staff on campus 24/7.
“Having a victims services specialist on our staff is a commitment from the police department to be victim centered in our approach and to do our best to ensure victims receive the best possible care in their time of need,” Stearns said.
The university police department paid for her training, which cost $70, Stearns said.
Other university police departments with a victims advocate are Florida State in Tallahassee, Florida, and George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Stearns has worked at Vanderbilt University, University of Texas-Pan American and Kennesaw State University in Georgia. Each of these had a victims advocate coordinator on campus.
“Being a victim of a crime can be a traumatic experience for anyone, especially students who have recently moved away from home for the first time,” Stearns said. “The criminal justice system can be daunting and unfamiliar to victims who may be interacting with police, courts and services.”
Tucker will reach out to agencies such as the Bexar County Family Justice Center and Rape Crisis Center to get different resources to aid victims.
The main focus of Tucker’s work is to get students to the correct resources they need, but she is not able to help them unless they reach out. Tucker is trained in helping students on campus get through domestic violence situations, sexual assault and any other type of crime by giving them the contact to reach out to the correct resources.
University police want someone that students can go to for appropriate information about their rights and available services, Stearns said. At Stearns’ prior universities, the victim services coordinator assisted with students filing protective orders and submitting requests for crime victim compensation. victims advocate coordinators also can accompany students to court meetings.
The main resources on campus are Title IX and student counseling. Student counseling has a wealth of information for the victim to help them stay in class through the process of a traumatic crime incident.
“Although the counseling center will aid in helping the victim, if the police don’t know about it then they aren’t able to ensure the safety of the victim while on campus,” Tucker said.
If a crime has occurred outside of campus, the victim can alert the university police officers and they will take note of it. The reason for this, is so the officers will know how to handle the situation in case the perpetrator shows up on campus.
“The safest way to protect yourself in this situation is to use the SafeZone app,” Tucker said. “That way we can pinpoint exactly where you are located.”
Students can find the SafeZone app on Google’s Play Store or the App Store. It is also available here.
If students are a victim of domestic violence on or off campus, Tucker has brochures that offer a domestic violence safety plan. The victim can use the plan to try to get out of the situation in the quickest and safest way possible.
“We want people to feel safe; going through a domestic violence type of situation you haven’t felt safe probably in a long time,” said Tucker. “Once you decide to leave is probably the most dangerous time because you don’t know how they will react.”
Although it is important to file a report on the incident, students do not have to. Tucker can assist them in figuring out the correct measures to take in case of a crime. Though she is not a counselor, she is able to help them in the best way possible, or point them to someone who can better assist.
If students are going through an ongoing criminal investigation, Tucker can help them better understand the criminal justice process. She said she knows how complex and long it can be.
“I am always here,” Tucker said. “I will always try to get them the correct counseling and resources.”
Tucker was moved into the modular buildings to have a more private center to meet with students.
Soon, Tucker will no longer wear her police uniform so that students feel like they are talking to an advocate rather than a police officer.
To contact Tucker, call her direct office phone at 210-784-1906.