For this edition, LaJauna Ellis sat down with Sgt. Hill of the Georgia Tech Police Department. Sgt. Hill assist faculty, students and staff across campus with the security side of special events.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in North Carolina. After high school, I joined the Army. I was trained as a special weapons technician, traveled extensively, and loved every minute of it, but I wanted to explore other options. I moved to Atlanta in 1992. I have been at Georgia Tech for twenty years and was promoted to sergeant eight years ago. I was in Patrol Division before that. I serve as coordinator for the Special Events/K-9 Unit. I am married with three children, ages eight (boy), twelve (girl), and fifteen (girl).
How did you come to GT?
I relocated to Atlanta in 1992 and worked in security at Coca-Cola while attending Devry University. One day I ran across a GTPD officer and inquired about GTPD, and the rest is history.
Explain your “typical” work day.
My typical work day involves patrolling, protecting, and serving. As the Special Events coordinator I also compile data, update and distribute documents related to events on a weekly basis, prepare invoices, respond to emails and voice mail, schedule events, and constantly update my calendar and review plans for the week. During football season, I meet with the Athletic Association for pre- and post-game meetings. During pre-game meetings, we discuss weather conditions, possible threats, and anything that could be an issue for an upcoming game. Post-game meetings involve a review of the previous week’s game. I am always on the go. My day consists of meeting individuals for races, seminars, movies, weddings, athletic events, and anything else that may require police/canine services.
What advice would you give to someone planning a large event?
Expect the unexpected, no matter the size of your event. Keep an open mind. Explore all options and resources. Reach out to the venue prior to the event. Check with GTPD and get them involved in safety coordination. Also schedule to attend the Event Logistics Committee, which combines all campus resources to assist you with hosting your event.
Is there anything, from your point of view, that can help guarantee the success of an event?
Planning – the sooner you start, the better off you will be.
Are there any “no-nos” that you would caution us against?
Be mindful and prepared if using the word “free” to advertise your event. “Free” means opening your doors to all, and you may be overwhelmed by the response. You may have to be prepared to turn people away.
What events require GTPD to be present?
If alcohol is being served or cash is exchanged, there is a security requirement. One officer per 250 people is required for events. This does not have to be GTPD, but if a security company is used, it has to be licensed, bonded, and approved by the GTPD.
How do you determine the number of officers needed?
One officer is required for every 250 people whether the event is indoors or outdoors, per life safety codes regulations.
What services does GTPD provide for events? GTPD provides general security, traffic enforcement, escorts, and street or lane closures. All officers are CPR and first-aid certified.
How are those services requested?
Services are requested by completing the “Request for Special Events Security Form” located on the GTPD website under the Division & Units link. The form is also available through the Special Events & Protocol website.
What about special accommodation for state leaders or other dignitaries?
GTPD provides dignitary protection and escort services for sporting events, press conferences, dinners, and award ceremonies. Whether the event is large or small, we provide a presence.
Do you want to know when someone “famous” will be on campus?
GTPD should be notified if anyone of significance will be on campus. Famous individuals draw large crowds, and safety is our number one priority.
Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with tailgaters when you have an outside event on campus?
Stay as far away from the sporting event location as possible. All areas around the stadiums are considered control points, so tell your guests to plan ahead, leave early, and be patient.
How do you partner with Atlanta Police Department to help with traffic?
There are two APD coordinators who work with GTPD. They attend the pre- and post-game meetings and are hired by the Athletic Association for games. It is a joint partnership to ensure the safety of all our guests.
Tell us something about GTPD that we may not know?
GTPD has eighty-four sworn officers. We have a Bike Unit, a Segway Unit, and a Motorcycle Unit. We have two K-9 dogs that provide bomb/explosive detection. The dogs are used to provide sweeps anytime there is a potential threat or safety concern.