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UT System Police Director wins award

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UT System Police Director Michael Heidingsfield  wins award.

UT System Police Director Michael Heidingsfield wins award.

UT System Police Director Michael Heidingsfield wins award.

UT System, UT System

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AUSTIN—UT System Police Director Michael Heidingsfield was recognized by the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA) with the 2016 – 2017 Harold Cottle Justice Award for his significant contributions to the anti-sexual violence movement.

Law enforcement, criminal justice officers and/or legislators were eligible to be nominated for the award, and the judging criteria was based on demonstrated outstanding support for victims and willingness to educate self and colleagues within the criminal justice system about sexual assault.

Heidingsfield played a leadership role in the development of the UT System Blueprint for Campus Police: Responding to Sexual Assault – a 170-page document based on the integration of science, philosophy and protocols. It provides the UT System’s 600 sworn campus police officers with guidance to better engage with and understand victims as well as improve the handling of campus sexual assault cases from the initial report until the conclusion. The piece was developed jointly by UT System Police and researchers from UT Austin’s Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault.

Each year, TAASA honors those who have helped open doors, build bridges and have shared their energy and creativity in the campaign against sexual violence.

“Having the opportunity to rely directly on the scientific and academic community to inform police practices is a rare and powerful foundation for action,” Heidingsfield said. “We must publicly acknowledge our moral obligation to understand sexual assault for the life-altering and destructive experience it is, and be champions of those victimized.”

UT System police are responsible for 14 academic and health institutions with more than 300,000 students, faculty and staff, and began using the Blueprint to train their officers and investigators in April 2016. It has the potential, Heidingsfield said, to be a national model for not only university law enforcement agencies but law enforcement in general.

“We must listen to victims’ voices and understand their fears and concerns in the context of current science as well as ensure that our policies and protocols are evolutionary and not stalled in the past,” Heidingsfield said.

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UT System Police Director wins award