Training, collaboration for campus safety

By Douglas Esser
Cham Kao has been directing campus safety on the University of Washington Bothell and Cascadia College campus for two years with an interim title. That interim was dropped recently as he was officially named campus safety director.

Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Services and Campus Operations Anthony Guerrero praised Kao for many initiatives that contribute to the safety of our campus community, including the launch of the Safe Ride program in which an officer will escort a student, staff or faculty member who doesn’t feel safe walking alone. He has also enhanced the campus safety department web presence and improved cooperation with city of Bothell police.

Kao (whose name is pronounced chahm kay-oh) recently answered some questions about the road ahead for the staff of 10 officers, four dispatchers and five part-time student dispatchers.

Congratulations on officially taking the position of safety director. What’s next?
It’s nice to be here permanently. My team and I have a lot planned for the upcoming year, particularly in terms of training and involvement on campus.

What do you have in mind for involvement?
Community engagement is a major priority of mine. We’re going to do a monthly “doughnuts and dialogue session.” We’ll have a table near the library and collaborate with the Bothell Police Department and emergency management, just to reach out to students as they’re walking by – handing out flyers, handing out safety tips and just having conversations with students and staff. We’ll do that once a month starting this fall.

How will campus safety officers get more involved?
My team and I will reach out more to different departments to offer trainings and safety tips. We are also going to become more engaged with students by attending student club meetings and on-campus events.

What are some things campus safety officers have been doing this summer?
I’m always trying to enhance my department’s professionalism and maintain a team mentality. This year we’re having report writing training, defensive tactics training, an emergency vehicle operations course and first-aid/CPR refreshers. We had public safety bicycle training this year, and more than half of my department is now certified as bike patrol officers. Also, I’m proud to say that more than half my officers are part of the campus CERT (Community Emergency Response Team, trained to Federal Emergency Management Agency standards) team with Darren Branum (our emergency preparedness manager).

What about your own training?
Learning and self-growth are important to me. I attended a conference this summer on Clery compliance (the federal Clery Act sets requirements for handling emergencies and incidents of sexual violence and for the disclosure of campus safety information) and an active shooter response instructor course with Bothell police. On a personal note, I am planning on going back to school to complete my Masters in Education.

Why all the training?
The purpose of the training is to increase our competence and build confidence amongst our team and myself and also confidence within the community that we serve.

One of the areas where we will continue to train is responding to incidents of campus violence. This is a concern at institutions across the country and preparation is important. We’ll start practicing building lockdowns in the fall, training each department. From there, once we have everyone trained, we’ll go campus wide. We’ll notify the whole community of that. The end result will be a major benefit to the safety of the campus.

What happens in a lockdown?
We have the access control system in place now, and my dispatchers and officers are trained. With several clicks of a mouse, the whole campus is secured. Exterior doors are locked. Nobody gets in (though people can still get out of buildings.)

What about collaboration with Bothell Police Department?
We are continuing efforts to get them more outs (visits) at night. The night shift sergeant is bringing officers out here to walk and familiarize themselves with the campus by seeing the layout. It’s not new, but they’re doing it more.

What’s the relationship with Bothell police?
It’s been great. Every year our campus has a Diversity and Inclusion Conference. Last year my department and the Bothell deputy chief, captain and sergeant were here. I plan to get the same team and a couple more officers to come out and partake in it as I can see it being a big event. They support us in our efforts and want to become closer partners with our community.

How do you feel about your job?
I’m very happy to be here. I love the community engagement aspect of it all, working with both UW Bothell and Cascadia College to ensure that the students, staff and faculty are provided with a safe and secure living, learning and working environment.

Cham Kao

Report anything suspicious by calling 911 or Campus Safety at 425-352-5222 (emergency) or 425-352-5359 (non-emergency)
Detailed information is available online:
Campus safety:
Campus emergency page:

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