The relationship between students and police officers on campus has been strained, and when Brian Joschko became the new chief of police this year, this was one of the first areas he attempted to improve.
That’s not a simple task. In the past, students saw the Bradley University Police Department as a force of opposition. A high percentage of police reports last year reflected some kind of resistance from students involved, such as refusing to answer questions, take a breathalyzer test or answer the door when an officer knocked.
From the student angle, this is all presumably to avoid being ticketed.
We can’t afford that kind of divide. Underage students who had one drink were afraid to walk a friend home who had 10, all because they knew the police would ticket both of them. They were hesitant to call for help when someone had alcohol poisoning, or ask for an escort because the police might smell alcohol on them.
The BUPD caught onto this, and they’ve realized that attitude wasn’t benefiting the students or themselves.
In a Sep. 2 article titled “BUPD police chief emphasizes card access, campus visibility,” Joschko said, “Officers will go and talk with people to establish good rapport with the students. There appears to be quite a bit of animosity from the students toward the officers, and that is what we’re going to be focusing on changing.”
So far, he’s kept his word. Instead of instant tickets, officers have been making an effort to talk to students. For example, if a noise complaint is called in or officers notice an excessively loud party, they have been giving residents a verbal warning. If the noise continues beyond that, they will return with a ticket, but that initial warning is something they should have been happening a long time ago.
BUPD Lt. Troy Eeten said ticketing is down significantly since last year, even though encounters with underage drinking are not. He said the conversational approach has been beneficial, and that they have experienced a lot less “doors being slammed in our faces, a lot less push-back.”
Their primary job is not busting parties or handing out tickets; it’s keeping us safe. Especially now when we have had three robberies this semester (and two in broad daylight,) this relationship is critical. Students need to communicate with the campus police and the police need to listen to us. And while we’re not saying underage drinking and excessive partying should be a free-for-all, we do believe that increased officer visibility and a more conversational approach will help students be smarter about asking for help when they need it.
We live in an urban setting, and being integrated with a city always poses higher crime risks. Our safety is not solely the responsibility of the police; it falls on our shoulders, too. But this is a college campus, and there is no feasible way to stop students from partying. However, with a new approach to the issue, students might at least party safer.