The Virginia Tech Police Department is hosting a police officer from Virginia Commonwealth University as part of a two-week officer exchange program.

VCU police Sgt. Joel Abernathy has been patrolling Virginia Tech’s campus with Sgt. Derek Hutchison since April 14. In addition, Abernathy is attending administrative and leadership meetings and met with officers from the Blacksburg Police Department. 

Also, he will work the Spring Football Game this weekend to see the demands of a large sporting event.

“These types of programs are vital to campus law enforcement. It’s one way we can learn from each other and share best practices, which ultimately benefits all of our communities,” said Kevin Foust, Virginia Tech acting police chief.

VCU police and Virginia Tech police began the exchange program in October 2013 when Hutchison spent two weeks patrolling VCU’s campus. While the two departments serve communities with similar populations, their campuses are vastly different. The traditional campus structure of Virginia Tech contrasts sharply with VCU’s undefined, urban campus in the heart of downtown Richmond.

“VCU is a completely different environment, but we do a lot of similar things. I looked at their best practices to see if there was anything we could do better,” said Hutchison. “One idea I brought back from Richmond was the Text Later Live Longer campaign. It is an effort to encourage people not to text and drive. It began at VCU and has spread across the county.”

Both departments hope to gain insight and knowledge from having an outsider’s perspective on their agency. Officers and administration are also learning from each other’s successes in community policing, outreach, education, engagement, and enforcement.

“By partnering with a similar agencies, we learn new ways to adapt and we become better able to reassess ourselves and continue to move forward,” said Abernathy.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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