Today@Sam Article

English Students Partner, Produce Projects For HPD

July 17, 2020
SHSU Media Contact: Hannah Haney


A seemingly unlikely partnership between the Geographic Information System (GIS) Unit at the Houston Police Department (HPD) and English students from Sam Houston State’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, has produced powerful results.

When the HPD GIS Unit was formed, they were tasked with solving two prevalent problems facing the department: situational awareness by leaders and access to information by front line employees.

Rooted in the science of geography, GIS is a framework for gathering, managing, and analyzing data by organizing layers of information into visualizations using maps and 3D scenes. The unit realized that they could leverage the GIS technology to drive actionable information to HPD employees in order to increase productivity, safety, and to allow for more timely and informed decision-making. 

GISSite1SHSU became involved with the initiative when longtime friends, Lieutenant Fredrick Croft and assistant professor Brandon Strubberg, were discussing Croft’s new role. 

“Lieutenant Croft had written a branding guide for the unit, and he still needed to write basic operating procedures for his staff. As a technical writer, the gears in my head were turning at this point. In my classes, we devote several discussions to the ways in which professional documents—brand guides, policies, procedures, and such—exert influence over audiences, both employees and customers or clients. These documents are important, but most students are unaware of them,” Strubberg said. “I asked Lieutenant Croft if he would be open to working with my students, to come to campus and talk about the work his unit does, and then have the students write the documents for him. Fortunately, he was as enthusiastic about the partnership as I was.”

During both the 2019 spring and fall semesters, Strubberg’s students assisted in creating standard operation procedures for the unit, a white paper on the unit’s operations, and marketing materials for presentations, brochures and flyers. The GIS unit uses the resulting products to this day in presentations, speeches and other professional documents.

“I enjoy the look of surprise many students show when they realize they’re going to work with one of the largest police departments in the country as a client in their English class, but they quickly realize these skills translate across all industries,” Strubberg said. “Partnering with an organization like HPD gives students the opportunity to practice these skills in a professional situation. Ideally, they are then better prepared to engage those skills once they graduate because they’ve already used them professionally.”

In a recent letter to CHSS leaders, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo praised the partnership and cited these sorts of collaborations as crucial in bridging the gap between law enforcement and the community.

“Building partnerships between the community and law enforcement provides the opportunity to share ideas, get feedback, and just generally have opportunities for dialogue. It gives community members insight on what goes on behind the scenes, as a ‘pull back the curtain’ opportunity. For the majority of people, their only interactions with law enforcement are through negative encounters, like when police are called to handle a problem or through traffic enforcement,” Lieutenant Croft said. “Collaborative partnerships create greater transparency on what police agencies are doing. One of my favorites aspects of doing these projects is being able to act as a resource for the students in the classes; answering questions they may have about HPD or law enforcement. In the future I’d like to see the partnership expanded to other units in our department and other educational departments at SHSU.”

To view the HPD GIS Unit’s work and publicly available story map, visit here: 

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