Gallery of Winners

Shawnta Privette

Shawnta PrivetteWhen the University of Maryland, Baltimore Police Department (UMBPD) needs help, Shawnta Privette, MSL, is there to answer the call. 

Over the past year, the police communications supervisor has worked to address the need to hire more dispatchers, overseen the transition to handling dispatch calls for both UMB and the University of Baltimore (UBalt), conducted training for UMB and other campuses in the region, and even found erroneous invoices submitted to UMBPD that would have cost the department $60,000. She has done this all while supervising nine police communication operators (PCOs), several of whom praise her as the best supervisor they’ve had.

Privette was surprised during a videoconference Feb. 23 by UMB President Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS, with the news that she has been named UMB’s February Employee of the Month. Jarrell was joined by Dawn M. Rhodes, DBA, senior vice president and chief business and finance officer; Thomas Leone, MSL, assistant vice president for public safety and chief of police, as well as numerous UMBPD colleagues.

“Ms. Privette is a blessing. She has taken our communications center to a place that it’s never been before, and it’s all of her hard work and dedication,” Leone said. “We see her at work eight or 10 or 12 hours a day, but after that, she’s still working on mastering her craft and her trade. She’s visited communication centers all around the region to make ours shine.”

Privette was instrumental in addressing a staffing shortage of PCOs, according to her supervisor, Lt. Matthew Johnson, who nominated her for the award.

“Ms. Privette has coordinated with police command staff and HR to successfully fill all PCO vacancies. She was pivotal in creating the appropriate interview questions, giving input throughout the selection process, training all new hires, and ensuring their success once assigned to a shift,” he said. “The number of available dispatchers has tripled since December 2021 and there has been zero turnover. That retention of our staff is a direct reflection of the work environment that Ms. Privette has created in the communications center. She has developed a culture of respect, compassion, and sustainability while ensuring there is a good work-life balance for her staff.”

Her colleagues said Privette sets the example.

“She is a great person, not just professionally but also personally,” said PCO Cornelius Campbell. “She just cares, and she works so hard.”

PCO Ashley Combs agreed, saying, “Her dedication and leadership is amazing.”

Privette said one of her favorite things about UMB is the ability to grow, which is evident in her support of her employees.

“A lot of times people equate your success with your title,” she said. “My success is when someone I’ve supervised is able to leave here and be better somewhere else because of what I’ve given them here. They can move in their career path with assurance and confidence that they have enough.”

Johnson said she makes sure her employees have work-life balance. “She treats her employees with so much love and respect that goes above and beyond with them outside of what the job requires,” he said.

In addition to supervising and training PCOs, Privette is responsible for maintaining UMB’s security infrastructure, such as the alarm, camera, and One Card building access systems. Her administrative duties include reviewing invoices, and she discovered UMBPD was being double billed $60,000 for work that was included in a contract.

“Ms. Privette is one of the first lines of defense in being a responsible steward of UMB funds. Her attention to detail prevented the waste of funds and initiated an additional review and audit of invoices submitted to the communications center for service,” Johnson said.

In 2022, Privette’s and the communications center’s monitoring responsibilities grew when UMBPD took over management of the policing on UBalt’s campus. Johnson praised her work managing both campuses.

“The implementation of that growth was seamless, thanks to Ms. Privette,” he said. “There were no major issues in expanding the footprint that the communications center was responsible for, as the UMB communications center became the only collegiate police communications center in Baltimore City — and likely the state — responsible for two different university campuses.”

Rhodes also praised Privette’s work with the transition.

“You are setting the excellence for doing that type of work within higher ed,” Rhodes said. “You are so dedicated and care so much. You can see that day in and day out the way you operate with people.”

Privette said the challenge with the transition was making sure training went smoothly.

“We needed to train the PCOs to be able to monitor both campuses confidently as if they were monitoring only one,” she said.

In addition to her police work, Privette has served on the UMB Staff Senate for nearly three years, recently working on the elections committee. Most of the executive committee attended the surprise announcement of the award and praised her dedication.

“She has stepped up for every kind of occasion, every kind of opportunity. It’s not only that she’s the first to put up her hand, but that she will put up her hand and you know that she's going to do it better than anybody else could,” said Staff Senate president Gregory Brightbill, MBA, MEd. “I am just so blessed to not only have her as a colleague and a friend, but to also serve alongside her as a leader, for she is leading so much and having such a huge impact.”

Privette, who has worked for UMBPD since 2016, said she was “beyond words” at winning the award.

“The late nights, the tears, the frustration, the joy, the smiles, it’s in that moment that you realize it is not in vain, that it’s more than just about you,” she said. “It’s about those you impact and what you do.”

Privette, who will receive a plaque, a letter of commendation, and an extra $250 in her next paycheck for the award, thanked Jarrell, Rhodes, Leone, Johnson, and Assistant Chief Tonya Bell, MS, as well as her colleagues in the communications center.

“AC Bell always encourages me to be my very best, and Lieutenant Johnson saw the very best in me,” she said. “And my staff walks with me in the vision that we have. If it was not for their support, this journey would be a lonely walk.”

She added that the Employee of the Month award has personal meaning. “The legacy that I leave for my children, my grandchildren, and maybe one day my great-grandchildren will speak volumes of persevering no matter what is at stake,” Privette said. “Persevering in spite of economic hardships and persevering in spite of your age. Persevering because you have a passion. It is in the perseverance that you can produce your greatest moments in life.”

— Jen Badie

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