Adopt-A-Cop to build bridge of communication

By Adam Djurdjulov
Arizona Daily Wildcat
January 11, 1996

For many students, being cited for violating a traffic law is the only interaction they ever have with the University of Arizona Police Department.

With a new Department of Residence Life program called Adopt-a-Cop, however, students in 10 residence halls will be able to get to know the police as more than just arresting officers.

Ten campus police officers have volunteered to work to bridge the communication gap between students and police.

They will be available at hall programs, meetings and other social functions, said UAPD Sgt. Brian Seastone.

Individual hall staffs will work with the officers to determine availability, he said.

In addition, all halls will have a confidential question box available to residents where they can anonymously receive answers.

He said the program's main goal is to allow residents to become more familiar with campus police as "real people" and as campus resources.

The police will not enter rooms with hall staff or residents, he said.

"We are folding UAPD, a segment of the greater campus community, into the residence hall system," said James Van Arsdel, director of residence life. "From both a security and community point of view, it leaves everyone better prepared to deal with the pro blems that do come up."

Brad Henner, hall director of Graham-Greenlee and the program's coordinator, said the Adopt-a-Cop program was a success at the University of the Pacific, where he also worked as a hall director.

"The campus-wide program gave students the opportunity to interact with officers on a social and informational level," he said.

The program is similar to the liaison officer program that the Tucson Police Department runs in conjunction with every high school within city limits except for Tucson Magnet and Saguaro High, Seastone said.

Officers from TPD were assigned to schools in an effort to provide an avenue where students could feel comfortable in approaching and speaking with officers in a non-confrontational situation.

"Much of the police contact with the community is during crisis situations, confrontations, or traffic violations," said TPD Sgt. Eugene Mejia. "In those situations, officers don't have time to engage in a lot of 'normal' communication."

Cpl. Mike Smith, the adopted policeman at Hopi Residence Hall, said he volunteered because of the need for open communication between students and police.

"The program is a step in the right direction in getting away from the 'we're the students, and they're the police' mentality," Smith said.

Michael Hackett, management information systems junior, said the program is a good idea, but that having an officer present might create tension even in a social situation.

"People want police protection, and when the protection affects them negatively, they cast a negative light on the police as a whole," said Angela Stollsteimer, community health education senior.

"The program is a great way to bring positive light to what officers do, and it gives residents a chance to see officers as regular people," she said.