The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police Department has been increasing its presence in the campus community throughout the fall semester.
Through events like Cover the Cruiser and Coffee with a Cop, UNL police officers have reached out to the UNL community since classes started in the fall, according to Hassan Ramzah, interim UNLPD chief of police. He said UNLPD is trying to get rid of misconceptions students have about the police and show students they are a safe resource on campus.
“We just look for ways that we can increase our campus engagement, support students [and] just be a good partner,” he said.
One of the events UNLPD put on in September was Cover the Cruiser, an event to raise awareness for sexual violence prevention, according to Ramzah.
The Association of Students of the University of Nebraska President Emily Johnson said that at the event students wrote on pledge cards and stuck them onto a police cruiser. She said she wrote on her pledge card to believe survivors. ASUN partnered with UNLPD for the event and helped staff the booth.
“I think it’s great to work with UNLPD,” she said. “We kind of think about them as being this far-off entity, but really it’s important that we have great relationships with police officers.”
Ramzah said UNLPD also took part in National Coffee with a Cop Day, which fell on Oct. 2 this year, with an event in the East Campus and City Campus unions. Students were able to meet university police officers while enjoying a cup of coffee.
“We just chat about any topics of interest,” he said. “It can be about safety, it can be about their experiences on campus. It’s open dialogue, open discussion, and it’s a great way to build relationships.”
UNLPD officers also helped serve food at the chancellor’s barbeque picnic on Aug. 23 to welcome new students to campus, which gave students the chance to meet campus police officers, according to Ramzah.
Another way Ramzah said the UNL community can connect with UNLPD is through their Citizen’s Police Academy. He said the academy is currently only available during the fall semester, and UNLPD takes 12 participants for the class each year. Throughout the course, participants have the opportunity to go on ride-alongs with officers and watch police dispatchers take calls.
“It introduces participants to the functions, the roles [and] the responsibilities of university police,” he said. “It’s both a classroom and interactive activity that allows participants to receive a better understanding of the role of campus policing and how we interact within the campus environment to maintain a safe campus.”
Johnson said she’s noticed UNLPD’s increased presence on campus, especially since Ramzah started.
“He is definitely community focused,” she said. “I think that’s been awesome and encouraging for us student representatives to have that face time with him.”
While ASUN does not have any events planned in the near future with UNLPD, Johnson said she hopes they can collaborate with UNLPD at least once each semester.
The goal of UNLPD’s community outreach is to show students the police are a resource for students, according to Ramzah.
“We're [the] protectors of the campus, not enforcers,” he said. “Our primary focus every day is to make sure it’s a safe environment for students. We’re here for them.”