By Kevin Redding
Instead of handing out tickets, officers at Stony Brook University were handing out free food.
Stony Brook University police officers and students mingled over pastries and coffee on campus Oct. 4 as part of a nationwide effort to better connect officers with the citizens they serve.
Half a dozen members of the university’s police department spoke with passing students as well as faculty outside the Student Activities Center on a number of topics, from current events to police training to food, during the college’s second “Coffee with a Cop,” an initiative that began in 2011 in Hawthorne, California and was adopted by local districts last year.
“This is a great way for students to get to know a police officer as an individual,” Eric Olsen, assistant chief of police at Stony Brook University said. “The media largely groups cops as one thing and it sort of dehumanizes them. We think this is a great concept.”
Community relations Officer Jared King, a former patrol officer who regularly pulled people over and made arrests, said he was excited to show off a more down-to-earth side to the police force.
“Nobody really knows the nice side of police work, which is interacting positively with people during the day, walking the beat, meeting and talking with people,” King said. “Here, we get to meet everyone during the day and talk about what’s going on on campus, address their questions, whatever they bring to the table.”
Jhinelle Walker, an anthropology major in her second year, made the rounds to each officer and asked several questions, even asking about their uniform colors. She commended the event for “bridging a gap.”
“I think this is a wonderful idea because often there’s a miscommunication that comes between people in the community and police officers,” Walker said. “We have to understand they’re regular people with lives. Here, students get to know who they are, what they do and can clear up misconceptions.”
A mechanical engineering major, Sagardeep Singh, said, “It’s good to get to know the cops better. They’re just trying to do their job and want to get familiarized with us students.”
Patrick Bazemore, another officer, fielded questions about recent national events and how he became an officer.
“I love dealing with people,” Bazemore said. “Everything is about communication and interaction. That’s how you move forward in life.”
This event is far from the department’s only outreach to the campus community,Olsen said. Officers regularly take part in a game night with the students and hold a one-credit citizen’s police academy, a course designed to provide insight into the daily functions and responsibilities of law enforcement personnel.
“It’s great to know how the students think of our cops,” Olsen said. “We always need to get input from people to know if we need to improve or change. And it’s a pleasure to do this style of policing.”