New opportunity brews on campus for students to get to know the UPD at Coffee with a Cop

Photo courtesy of Abigail Harrison

Abigail Harrison, News Editor

On Dec. 1, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion hosted Coffee with a Cop at the TMB lobby. Students and faculty had the opportunity to grab some free coffee and donuts and meet members of the Jacksonville University Police Department.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion organized this event with Chief Michael Barton and the UPD in an effort to bridge the gap in the relationship between police officers and students, according to Jacob Phillips, Administrative Assistant of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. 

Charlcie Vann, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, said the office’s goal is to create a welcoming environment for all students by recognizing and celebrating diversity on campus.

Vann wants students to know “if you’re different, if you’re an underrepresented group, if you’re a part of the LGBTQ, you’re welcome here.”

One step in ensuring JSU maintains a welcoming campus is by changing the negative perception of police officers some students may have, according to Vann, and the office hopes to accomplish this by giving students and cops an opportunity to meet each other at Coffee with a Cop.

“We want students to know that cops are people. We are trying to dismiss the myth that cops are bad or evil. They’re here to help us. That’s what this whole thing is about,” Vann said. 

Barton said the UPD works with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion on a regular basis to ensure officers are properly trained and educated on campus diversity. The office also helps them identify any problem areas that need to be addressed. 

“If they become aware of an issue or perception issue across campus, we will try to work to resolve that,“ Barton said. “Usually it comes down to somebody didn’t understand or they don’t know the perspective of the police officer because they don’t know them as a person. So, that’s when Director Vann came up with the idea of doing this together to have the opportunity for people to come and meet the officers and get to know them a little better on a personal basis.”

Coffee with a Cop will be a regular event on campus, happening on the first Wednesday of each month. Students can find more information about dates, times, and locations on the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s webpage and social media. 

The office encourages students to come out and meet the officers who are in charge of protecting and serving them, and the officers are excited to meet students, too. 

Three members of the UPD staff at the event were Captain Brandon Singleton, Officer Betsy Lopez, and Officer Stephen Curvin.

Singleton hopes Coffee with a Cop will help students “get to know the police officers as a person instead of an authority figure.”

“You know, we’re not your enemy. We’re not here to arrest you or write you tickets. We’re here to make sure you have a safe, enjoyable college experience,” Singleton said.

Lopez has been working as an officer at UPD for over five years, and she said working on campus has shown her that “we really do hold up the saying that JSU is the Friendliest Campus in the South.”

It also has shown her that JSU is a melting pot of cultures that law enforcement must educate themselves on. 

According to Lopez, as an officer, recognizing diversity on campus means “knowing different cultures and how other people see respect and disrespect, and working together to show that we do care and we do want to learn about different ethnicities and races and include them and make them feel respected because they are part of our campus, too.”

Another officer, Curvin, has been with the UPD for one year but originally worked for the Jacksonville Police Department for three years. When asked about how working at a campus department differs from working at a city department, Curvin said that JSU brings a more personable experience from being able to work with a community of diverse students and faculty.

He also commented on how being responsible for so many different students can make the job as an officer more difficult.

“You have people from all over the world coming here, so their thoughts and views on law enforcement might be different,” Curvin said. 

Coffee with a Cop not only is a chance for students to get to know the officers, but also is a great way for students to bring up any questions or concerns in an honest, non-threatening environment, according to Barton.

“If students are aware of any issues or there’s a problem area that they want to bring to our attention, this is a perfect place to do that and explain that to us,” Barton said. “If there’s a question about why we do something or how we do something, it’s a good time for them to understand the reasons behind policing.” 

One student who attended the event was Abbie Beatty, and she said the officers were friendly to her as she fixed herself a cup of coffee and thinks other students should join the gatherings in the future to start conversations with the officers.

“I think it’s really important to have a good relationship because they are here to keep us safe and protect the campus and students here,” Beatty said. “So I think it’s important that students realize that it’s a positive thing and that our UPD officers are here for them.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Be the first to comment on "New opportunity brews on campus for students to get to know the UPD at Coffee with a Cop"

Leave a Reply