While public safety officers at headquarters in the Texas Medical Center in Houston listen attentively at their daily roll call before dispersing to their posts at an MD Anderson or UTHealth Houston building, police officer Brittny Stanley is patrolling the grounds of the nearly 381 acres that encompass the Bastrop campus.
Officer Stanley is grateful to work in such a unique environment “We see many wild animals here on the hundreds of acres. We have spotted families of deer, racoons, opossums, skunks, snakes, coyotes, wild hogs, turtles, rabbits, and I’ve even seen river otters! Early this summer, I had walked up to my parked patrol car and found a baby deer right next to it.”
From the bustling pace of the Texas Medical Center in Houston to the tranquil country feeling of the Bastrop campus, there are many unique differences that define how everyday work for officers at UT Police can be strikingly different.
The Bastrop campus consists of a landscape where residential areas, rural expanses, and government facilities converge. Surrounded by the Texas National Guard Camp Swift, the Darling/Darpro food waste recycling plant, a vast cattle ranch, a local neighborhood, and a Federal Correctional Institute, the Bastrop campus finds itself in a unique intersection of environments.
"The area has experienced rapid growth as Austin continues to expand and large companies such as Tesla and Samsung move nearby or expand," Captain Wayne Smith said.
Diligent monitoring of fire conditions and daily fire activity is also a necessity in Bastrop. The Bastrop and the nearby Lost Pines regions have grappled with recurrent wildfires, leaving an indelible mark on the community. In 2009, the Wilderness Ridge Fire razed nearly 1,500 acres (about twice the area of Central Park in New York City), claiming 26 homes and 20 businesses. In 2011, the devastating Bastrop Complex Fire swallowed over 32,000 acres, leading to two casualties, mass evacuations, and extensive property loss. Many UT Police workforce members were directly affected, disrupting Bastrop and nearby Smithville campus operations for several weeks.
One of the defining differences between UT Police’s Bastrop and the Texas Medical Center-based operations lies in self-sufficiency. Due to its remote nature, the Bastrop team handles vehicle maintenance independently from the dedicated staff and work units that support these functions at the division’s headquarters. The detachment’s team also conducts their own new employee orientations, emphasizing the critical role each staff member plays in maintaining a secure campus.
Smith and the commissioned officers also serve as liaisons with partner agencies in the region, solidifying the Bastrop campus's integral role in the community and maintaining vital relationships and communication.
An exciting development is the approval of a $10 million project to renovate the oldest building on campus. The original plan for the building was expansion, but due to the pandemic new plans were put in place for renovation instead. This much needed renovation will bring new energy to the campus.
In the heart of the Texas Medical Center or amidst the vast landscapes of Bastrop County, UT Police plays a crucial role in ensuring safety and contributing to the diverse needs of each of their unique campus communities.