On Monday, Feb. 6 at noon students and faculty filled room 312 in the Lory Student Center for a chance to engage in dialogue with two Colorado State University police officers.
The “Dialogues Around Differences” seminars are put on every fall and spring semester by the Diversity and Human Rights Committee from the School of Social Work at CSU.
The meeting Monday was titled “Addressing Tensions with the Public and the Police.” CSU Police Chief Scott Harris and Capt. Frank Johnson were the main speakers at the first event of the semester.
CSU social work majors Jessica Brownrigg and Kayla Hickingbottom both went to the talk.
“I’m looking forward to a perspective from the law enforcement side with everything that has been going on lately,” Brownrigg said.
Hickingbottom also said she looked forward to hearing what the officers had to say in regards to recent events, and she believes that police generally have a good grasp on diversity.
Instead of putting together a presentation to show the audience the talk was meant to be an open dialogue between the officers and the audience.
Harris has been an officer since 1971 and has been with CSU since 2013. Johnson has been in the field since 1993. He has worked at CSU since 2005. Both officers emphasized the importance of building trust between the public and law enforcement and feel there is a gap between the public and the police that needs to be closed.
“I think we are engaged but there is always room for improvement,” Harris said during his introduction.
For a little over an hour and a half the officers took question after question from members of the audience. Topics ranged from the enforcement of the campus smoking ban, to the Free Speech zones on the Plaza, to the training officers must go through to work on a campus as diverse as CSU.
According to Harris and Johnson, CSU police strive to hire people who have a strong appreciation for diversity before they can serve the campus. Being proactive and engaging with communities is the best thing a police department can do to prevent tension between police and citizens.
“It has to be a genuine effort put forth by not only police but communities as well,” Johnson said.
Some questions put forth dealt with current events. At one point an audience member asked if undocumented students should be scared to approach the CSU Police. Both Harris and Johnson made it clear: they are there to serve all CSU students. The students stuck abroad due to the recent travel ban also have a strong system of support through CSU.
The dialogue also expanded beyond the CSU campus and into broader problems police are facing nation-wide. When asked about coverage of police brutality cases both officers agreed that the media has an important role to play.
The media should work harder to make it clear if all the facts about a case are unknown, Harris said. Though police understand bad things happen that the public should know about Johnson feels that only certain stories make all the headlines.
“From a police side of things we kind of get frustrated when we don’t see the positives because there’s a lot more positives going on that’s not being reported,” Johnson said.
Tours of the CSU Police crime lab and dispatch center are offered in efforts to build trust with the community in a positive manner.
According to Dr. Malcolm Scott, chair of the Diversity and Human Rights Committee, there will be two more talks this semester, both of which will take place on the first Monday of March and April.
The topic of discussion next month will be disproportionate representation.