By Matt Kyle | Staff Writer
New Baylor Police chief John Kolinek has set his sights on improving the department, with a focus on diversity, transparency and student engagement. While it is too early to see how these goals will play out, students said they are moving a “step in the right direction.”
Aurora, Colo., senior Sam Onilenla said Kolinek’s diversity goal is great because it allows people of color to feel safer around officers.
“Minorities may not feel safe with cops around because they think cops have prejudice against people of color,” Onilenla said. “Diversity being his number one thing, what he wants to take off first and what he wants to build and improve on, I really like it that he wants to actually actively do those things.”
San Antonio senior Jacob Williams also said that Kolinek’s diversity goal is great because officers of color can better relate to the experiences of people of color and the discrimination they face every day. Williams also said he thinks Kolinek’s goal of building relationships so that students can see “the officer outside the uniform” is beneficial because it allows both students and officers to relate to each other on a personal level.
“Officers are people too; they’re not just police all the time,” Williams said. “You can see someone in that uniform and see them as just the badge, or you can see them as the person that they are, and those are two different things.”
Williams also said that he thinks de-escalation training should be mandated and that police departments should ensure that officers prioritize the use of non-lethal force.
Williams said that he would feel safer on campus if officers were around less.
“They don’t need to be present for every situation,” Williams said. “God forbid if there were a school shooter — obviously we would need police for that. But if there is a noise complaint at Moody Library, I don’t think they should involve the law. Someone should come over and ask whoever is being noisy to quiet down.”
Onilenla said he believes Kolinek will follow through on his goals because he said he has already seen him working toward them. After the January incident at Moody Memorial Library, at which Onilenla was present, Onilenla said that Kolinek and former Baylor Police chief Brad Wigtil came and spoke with him and other students who were involved.
“I told them, ‘I have a bad connotation of cops,’” Onilenla said. “When I see a cop, I tense up and I go to all my negative thoughts about cops. I told them that, and they understood where I was coming from.”
Onilenla said his trust in the department has been building because of Kolinek’s efforts.
“Building my relationship with [Witgil] and [Kolinek] has definitely been impactful on my sight of BUPD because I understand these men and I understand what they’re trying to do,” Onilenla said. “They’ve really been trying to build those relationships with me.”
Onilenla said in order to continue to build on this trust, he wants BUPD to be fully transparent, build genuine relationships and have conversations with students so that both sides can understand each other.
Williams said that in order to make him trust in the department, he also wants to see full transparency and to have officers and students connect on a personal basis. He also said he believes it would be beneficial for everyone if BUPD actively voiced its intentions in every situation.
Williams said he is looking forward to seeing Kolinek’s plans be put into action.
“I look forward to see the programs they put in place to make this place feel more inclusive and safer,” Williams said. “I know the vast majority of students do feel safe here, which is good. But the students who don’t, we need to listen to their voices too. I’m excited for the future.”