Students rely on Campus Safety and the Public Safety and Emergency Management for protection and security. Often, students forget to communicate concerns or create friendships with the officers. It is for these reasons and more that Assistant Chief Jeffery Gentry pioneered “Coffee with a Cop” along with other police departments.
Roy Dunaway, interim chief of the Public Safety said the event is part of a growing national trend designed to push community-oriented policing.
The concept of community oriented policing was first coined by University of Wisconsin–Madison professor Herman Goldstein, and can be described as problem-oriented policing.
Gentry compared the idea of community-oriented policing to Andy Griffith. Gentry said that Public Safety is trying to initiate conversation, be visible, out of the vehicle and approachable to students.
Captain of Operations, Robert Bringhurst previously worked at University of Louisville where community-oriented policing was also present. The campus used bicycles, segways and ATVs to be visible outside of police cars.
Dunaway said he is hopeful that students will interact with the officers repeatedly in an informal setting. He said he believes if students see officers in public more often, the impression of law enforcement may change and help students open up to them more so they may be aware of what is going on around campus.
During Wednesday’s event, the department answered any questions the students had about law enforcement and provided safety tips. Dunaway said the goal for the event was for students to understand that the law enforcement is both approachable and helpful.
“Unfortunately when citizens, in particular our student population, interacts with the police, it is often of a negative nature,” Dunaway said. “By conducting this program, it is our intention to familiarize ourselves with the students in order to mitigate the common misconceptions regarding law enforcement.”
Previously, Public Safety engaged in a lunch with students named “Talk with a Cop.” There will be more opportunities for officers to communicate with students throughout the semester in different settings on campus.
Dunaway said that while the program was called “Coffee with a Cop,” he would characterize it simply as conversation with a cop.
“We strongly believe that by interacting with the students in a positive atmosphere, a better, more productive relationship can be established with the University community,” Dunaway said.
Students understand that the Public Safety works to make campus safe, but students may not know what programs the department has to offer.
Bringhurst said there are various programs to bring awareness to issues students may encounter during their time at college.
A few of the programs offered by the Public Safety include sexual awareness, alcohol awareness and general safety. The safety program is not implemented just for campus safety but also on vacation and in different environments.
Public Safety also has outreach programs for younger students. An officer presented a “Stranger Danger” and safety awareness program at Alexander Hall to local preschoolers.
Murray State Police Department hopes that students will meet with them and if they have any questions or suggestions to contact the department.
Story by Tiffany Whitfill, Staff writer