On game day, thousands of people in red and white transform Memorial Stadium into the third-largest city in Nebraska. UNLPD Assistant Chief Hassan Ramzah said fans might not be aware of the work police officers do to manage the noise, traffic and behavior behind the scenes.
To bring awareness to their work, UNLPD recently established Citizens Police Academy: a six-week program that educates people about how they protect and serve. The program is open to UNL students, faculty and staff to help familiarize them with the practices of the police department in their community.
The 12 individuals in the program will learn about basic police procedures. They will use and apply handcuffs, go for a ride-along with an officer and spend time in dispatch. During the first session on Sept. 17, they took a tour of the department and learned more about the resources the police officers provide.
Many other police departments around the country host citizens police academies as a way to connect with the community, UNLPD Assistant Chief Hassan Ramzah said.
“A lot of times you find that students or faculty and staff have a different perspective of police,” he said. “The purpose of the police academy is to provide our campus community with a better understanding of the police department: our individual members, our positions, our responsibilities, and some of the processes and activities that go into day-to-day operations that contributes to helping keep the campus safe.”
Ramzah said participants will gain a better understanding of how the department operates, from preventative crime work to the police cars patrolling campus. He also spoke about engaging with the community when working with the university, as opposed to working for the city’s department.
“We’re not here for us; we’re here for you,” he said. “We want every student on campus to feel like they’re safe no matter where they are. We want to be active, we want to be visible, we want to be approachable, we want to be engaging.”
UNL is considered to be one of the safest college campuses in the United States, according to Ramzah. It is important to Ramzah that the campus community feels comfortable where they teach, work and attend school.
Yassine Rfissa, a Fulbright scholar from Morocco and a UNL Ph.D. student and teaching assistant for modern languages and literatures, is one of the participants in this program. Rfissa said he believes the academy is a great opportunity to learn more about how UNLPD serves the campus community.
“The job they do is amazing,” he said. “As an international student, I wanted to learn more about how UNL police do such an amazing job on campus. I usually sit in the Learning Commons and see that they are always available if a student wants to report something or ask a question.”
Rfissa said the way United States police protect and serve citizens is different from in Morocco. He said he is impressed with their genuine care and concern for the safety of citizens. He encouraged anyone interested to get involved with this program.
“Lots of faculty and staff do not know the full picture of what UNL police do on campus,” he said. “They’re not looking for people who are breaking the law or get people in trouble; they’re there to be a resource.”