UMPD community engagement officers are a step forward. Are they enough?

Working with the community should be the responsibility of all UMPD officers.

The new University of Minnesota Police Department squad car.

Daily File Photo

The new University of Minnesota Police Department squad car.

by Chance Wellnitz

Last week, the Minnesota Daily reported on the University of Minnesota police officials’ plans to add two new community engagement officers.

These officers will be responsible for engaging with University students, faculty and staff, as well as attending local neighborhood meetings. Furthermore, they’ll host a monthly morning coffee event on campus.

Community engagement is essential for police beat work, especially with today’s increasing public scrutiny and mistrust of law enforcement officers. However, working with the community shouldn’t just be delegated to two newcomers; it should be the responsibility of everyone who wears a UMPD badge.

This isn’t an attempt to extinguish a spark before it ignites a flame. I believe these additions to the police force are crucial. That said, the more officers who respond to calls within the community, who also work with that community, the better it will be.

The responsibility doesn’t rest solely on the UMPD either. The University administration is accountable for ensuring students feel safe and respected on campus, so their relationship with the UMPD is essential.

I also hope members of student government and student group leaders take it upon themselves to not only forge relationships with the UMPD, but engage in community work themselves. This way, if a student doesn’t feel comfortable speaking with the campus police directly, their voice will still be heard.