Texas State took a step in the right direction by hiring new Chief of Police Laurie Espinoza-Clouse. The hiring in itself was the right choice made by the university’s administration because of her experienced background. Furthermore, it placed a woman who is a direct reflection of Texas State’s majority Latinx and largely female student body into a position of power.
The university police department must now take the necessary steps to become more community-oriented. To achieve that, officers must make a better effort to become more publicly accessible, identify the needs of the community and take actions that will ensure a safe and united environment.
Part of the problem in past years was the fact that UPD very seldom appeared in the public eye outside of responses to emergencies, conflicts, patrols or events. This sentiment was conveyed by the International Association of College Law Enforcement Administrators’ Peer Review Program, in which it concluded that UPD is perceived by the public to be more reactive than proactive.
UPD placing value and importance upon more accessibility is the first step in becoming more community-oriented.
Whether it be through scheduled meet and greets, on-campus interaction with the student body, educational seminars or simply standing in the quad displaying an openness to speak, accessibility inevitably allows students, faculty and officers to get to know and recognize one another on campus. UPD has already taken steps toward this with its “coffee with the cops” event but in order to become more community-oriented, they must do even more.
The familiarity that results from these scenarios will likely give individuals more incentive and comfort to open up about both the positive and negative occurrences within the community. It creates an environment where both students and officers know one another and are better informed because of it. After controversial events, such as the student-sit in arrests, UPD needs unison and mutual trust to move forward and establish a healthier reputation.
Identifying the actual needs of the Texas State community is an important follow up to accessibility. During incidents like the sit-in arrests, UPD used a very tumultuous time period to implement its own scare tactics to silence the student body. On the contrary, when UPD only issued out trespass warnings to the men responsible for white nationalist propaganda on campus, the department did not take such a symbolic incident very seriously.
Going forward, the department must actually listen and digest information when making itself more accessible. When out in the quad, conducting socials or simply holding conversations with members of the community, UPD must be attentive to people’s needs and concerns. More importantly, it must begin to ask questions. When unsure of why tensions, feelings and conditions are the way they are on campus, UPD must utilize students and faculty. The safety and wellness of both should be among its top concerns.
After making itself more accessible and taking the time to identify the needs of the community, UPD must finally take action to ensure a safe and united environment. It must engrave the concept of community policing into its policies, and act accordingly. That includes very high levels of transparency and being proactive in locations that receive a lot of traction and viewing anything that deteriorates the condition of the community as a threat.
To serve and protect is more than just doing one’s job; it is acting with a purpose to ensure that the individuals within your jurisdiction are safe, shielded and united at all times. UPD has more than enough power to better its accessibility and listening. Taking the necessary actions to ensure community safety and unity should be second nature. However, actions do not always have to be a result of crime and wrongdoing.
In order to finally be recognized as a community-oriented institution, UPD must become much more than reactors to chaos.
– Jaden Edison is an electronic media sophomore