By Harry Rowe | Staff Writer
It was all smiles Tuesday afternoon as the Baylor Police Department welcomed students back to campus with free ice pops.
The “Ice Pops with a Cop” event in front of the Baylor Police offices on Speight was to kickstart a sense of the Baylor community early in the year.
“We just want to get out here and meet the community, develop relationships with the community,” Baylor Chief of Police Brad Wigtil said. “We thought this was a great informal way, right out front of the police department, to meet people and say hi and get to know us a little bit.”
Sandy Kocian, administrative manager for Baylor’s Department of Public Safety, planned and organized the event. She said she had seen similar things done at other universities and thought Baylor would be a perfect place for this type of community building.
“I saw some other police departments have done the same thing in other states… Anytime I see the university police department has a Facebook page, I’ll follow it just to get ideas from them, and I saw one of them did this,” Kocian said.
Events like this are important to Kocian, who understands that police can often be seen as intimidating or people to be avoided. Kocian hopes small events like Ice Pop with a Cop promote a sense of community between students and police and help students see officers in a different light.
“It kind of puts a human element behind the badge,” Kocian said. “[Students] realize that they are people just like them. It gives them that opportunity to interact with people in the Baylor community.”
This isn’t the first event in Waco meant to strengthen community in Waco. The Hewitt and Woodway Police Departments hosted “Coffee with a Cop” in March in hopes strengthening ties between the people of the Waco community and the police who protect them.
Building a trustful relationship between students and police is a top priority at Universities across the country, too. For example, the University Police Department at San Diego State has a whole page on their website dedicated to the importance of building community relationships, and how they get involved. In January, Penn State selected three officers to serve in its new community policing unit, with the goal of working around campus and giving students a “visible face” that they can talk to if in trouble.
Baylor police continue to take steps forward to get engaged with the community and to make students feel more comfortable. BUPD also hosts National Night Out, an annual community-building event, in the fall, but no dates have been determined for this year.