Hometown pride motivates UAPD’s top Dispatcher, SRA
By David Miller
Ryan Clanton doesn’t have “average” days at The University of Alabama.
Clanton, in his sixth year as a security resource assistant at the Capstone, has helped students change flat tires and has walked sorority house directors to their cars on late nights. He once helped a man locate his car in a hot, muggy parking deck.
“Knowing we’re here is a great comfort for a lot of people on campus,” Clanton said. “That makes me feel best about the job.”
Clanton walks nearly 10 miles a day across campus, treks in which he’d periodically check on his daughter, Amy Bailey, who recently earned a nursing degree. Along those walks, he’s also encountered foxes, ground hogs and deer. Before move-in day last fall, ducks at Ridgecrest laid eggs close to one of the entrances. Afraid the eggs may be crushed amid all the traffic, Clanton secured the area and dispatched animal control services to relocate the nest.
“I stopped saying ‘I’ve seen it all,’” he quipped.
Clanton said it’s difficult to define the scope of his job, but he and other SRAs are prepared to address anything that could pose a security risk for anyone who steps foot on campus, “even if you’ve never seen it before.”
The University of Alabama Police Department recently awarded Clanton the inaugural SRA of the Year award for his commitment to serving the University community and “willingness to go above and beyond his call of duty.” Clanton regularly assists fire and medical response agencies by facilitating their access to buildings and areas on campus necessary to their response.
“Our guys are always out in the field, and they take pride in how quick they respond and the patience they show with people,” Clanton said. “But also understand this is a college campus where there are kids who want to live the college life, so we have a happy medium to where we enforce the things needed to keep them safe, but we’re relaxed enough for everyone to enjoy themselves.”
Calvin Kimbrow, a communications training officer at UAPD, shares Clanton’s appreciation for both the UA and Tuscaloosa communities. Each grew up in Tuscaloosa and have parents that worked at UA – Kimbrow’s mother, Diane, used to work in purchasing, and Clanton’s father, Charles, retired from UAPD.
Kimbrow wanted to be a police officer but carved a role as a dispatcher at UAPD after working briefly at UA’s Security Resources. His ability to keep people calm over the phone and learn every resource and corner of campus helped him ascend to a leadership role in UAPD’s Communications Division, where he recently received the inaugural Dispatcher of the Year award.
“There’s a lot to learn and memorize to know the right people to call in certain situations,” Kimbrow said. “I try to go a step further with someone who is calling as much as I can … I like to go on the ride-alongs with our officers so I can see where the construction is happening and better help people with directions.
“This is our community, and the more we help each other, the better off we’ll be.”
Game days can be particularly challenging for Kimbrow and UAPD, as “all hands are on deck” throughout game weekends. But Kimbrow’s most challenging – and gratifying – experiences in his nine years as a UA dispatcher came in the aftermath of the April 27, 2011 tornado, the first “traumatic event I’d ever been a part of.”
April 28 was his first day in incident command, where he and former officer and current UAPD Chief John Hooks worked together to locate people, either through social media or other outlets.
“The whole two weeks after we were on mandatory 12-hour shifts,” Kimbrow said. “I was working hand in hand with the officers to try and find students in town – are they missing? Are they OK? – to try and locate them and not upset parents when you check on them. Being a part of that and seeing how everything works from incident command was eye-opening. I was glad to be a part of that.”
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.