UTPD officer seeks to make difference, offers safer environment for UT students

John Platt has made it his mission to keep the students of UT safe.

John Platt realized his passion for helping people after working as a missionary for his church for two years in Barcelona. He then decided become a police officer.

“My major in college was initially computer science, but then it changed to criminal justice,” Platt said. “I decided to pursue [becoming an officer] because of my love for helping others.”

After working for Clarksville Police Department in Clarksville, Tennessee, Platt passed the Entrance Exam and Board Review to join the Secret Service; but, during that time he fell in love and got married.

“My wife was attending [UT] in Child and Family Studies and so I decided to move just because we love the town of Knoxville so much more than where I’m from,” Platt said.

This is when he decided to transfer to the University of Tennessee Police Department (UTPD).

Platt said he is able to make a difference in the lives of college students because he can offer a safer environment for them.

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John Platt stands in his office during a tour of UTPD. Platt is a member of CRU.

“Today, college students are extremely anxious and they have so many different things that they are responsible for,” Platt said. “So, if I could reduce some of the stress as far as being safe, I feel like that educational aspect will be able to foster more.”

Platt is a member of the Community Relations Unit (CRU), which is part of UTPD. Platt teaches a variety of programs, including Rape Aggression Defense (RAD). Platt said he volunteered to teach this before he became a member of CRU.

“RAD I volunteered for before I came to the Community Relations Unit, just because my wife had told me she had taken that while she went to University of Utah for her undergrad, and she enjoyed it,” Platt said. “She explained it to me the best she could, and I felt that I could make more of a difference if I was able to teach that class as well.”

“You have this victimization triangle where you have the victim on one side, and you have the attacker on the other side,” Platt said. “But, in order for those to meet, there’s that base of opportunity. So if we could remove that base of opportunity, you know that’s 90 percent of self-defense is awareness.”

Ana Casey, a student at UTK studying Kinesiology, took RAD because she needed a physical education requirement and thought RAD would be beneficial.

“…I would say that it strengthened my ability to feel more confident in my ability to get out of an unsafe situation,” Casey said. “The reason for that is because of the simulation of a police officer being an attacker, and you are encouraged to defend yourself against the officer.”

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This room is used for teaching the Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) classes.

Platt also teaches a sexual assault awareness course and other programs like Community Response to an Active Shooter and Campus Carry.

“Child and Family Studies has really been a great sponsor for us because they constantly ask us to go over and teach their students,” Platt said. “…We talk about consent and when’s the right age to teach people about consent, because it’s such an important fact, and I think we’re missing it in our current culture.”

Platt believes that all of the programs, particularly RAD have been successful so far.

“We always have feedback where people can give us criticism through our website. They can fill out a feedback survey,” Platt said. “But also, we’ve had people contact us and tell us how someone was following them, and they knew at that time what to do. They felt comfortable calling the police and felt comfortable going a different route.”

Platt said one of the best aspects of teaching this course is receiving emails about how this program has helped others.

Platt said the goals of CRU is to foster the educational aspect of the environment while treating everyone fairly. He said Chief Troy Lane refers to their goals as ‘values’ and ‘pride.’ Pride stands for: professionalism, respect, integrity, dedication and excellence.

Sergeant Chuck Sennstrom, a member of CRU and Platt’s immediate supervisor, said Platt has always been passionate about his work as a police officer and a member of CRU from day one.

“During this time [with CRU], he has shown a great eagerness to provide programs and classes to the university community, and he has taken a special interest in programs that are geared towards the safety of our students,” Sennstrom said.  “Officer Platt has a keen ability to convey the safety issue to both students, staff and faculty with a genuine sense of concern for their well-being.”

For Platt, his favorite aspect of being a police officer has changed throughout the years.

“When I was younger, really I enjoyed the adrenaline. But, a lot of times the adrenaline is just 30 minutes out of a 12-hour shift, if that,” Platt said. “…Lately though,  I think the best time is being able to come home and know that I’ve done a great job and I’ve been able to impact someone’s life and being able to share those stories with my wife.”

However, the most challenging aspect for Platt is making quick decisions.

“…You have to constantly make quick decisions and those decisions you make are going to affect not only you, but it’s going to affect your family, and it’s going to affect the department and the community you’re serving” Platt said. “So, a lot of times we have this education available for the officers to take, but with that said, you know they still have to make the decision at the time.”

For more information on CRU or UTPD, visit their website.

Images by Kaitlin Flippo

Edited by Taylor Owens