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Moving to dismantle tension with trust

by The Stylus
Tue, Oct 2nd 2018 10:00 pm
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Safety plays a big role at any college campus and that is no different with The College at Brockport. Services such as Blue Lights, which allows students to quickly contact the police when outside if there is an emergency, as well as Safe Ride, a free car service that drives students around campus, are a few of the many safety services the campus provides. Despite these attempts to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the campus community, we at The Stylus believe that there is some contention between students and  police officers, both on and off campus. 

On the students’ end, there have been complaints of officers showing up and handing out tickets for unreasonable offenses. Additionally, some say that the police issue tickets to “parties” of fewer than 10 people due to noise complaints. It is understandable for police to shut down some parties, let’s be honest, many  tend to get out of hand. On other occasions, students have been arrested or given expensive tickets for what the students consider to be just a get together. When they do stop a student, most of the time there are no warnings issued, with a ticket following. This leaves students sitting with yet another bill to pay, on top of college expenses.

The Brockport police have an obligation to keep the students safe, but, unfortunately, due to different perceptions, the presence of police tends to escalate matters rather than helping them. While true that we are all still young, still growing and still learning, we also need to be aware that the police are trying to do their job effectively and safely. Neither party wants an escalation or violence to ensue. The Stylus believes that the existing problem between law enforcement and the student population is a lack of trust on both sides.

“I understand that not every interaction with Police is a pleasant experience,” Campus Police Chief Dan Vasile said. “I have had a few negative experiences personally with Police when I was growing up and even as an Officer.” 

However, the campus is working diligently to improve these relations. Men of Color, a club here at Brockport, recently held an event called Brockport’s Night Out, during which they tried to show that both the Brockport Police and the Campus Police are here to help and support us as students. In efforts to try and make the students feel more comfortable with the two police forces, officers and students played games to try to humanize both parties. While it helped some, there are some remaining students that walked away from the event still unsure about the law enforcement agencies in the area.

Race tends to be a complicated subject when it comes to how the student population interacts with the local law enforcement officers. With the current climate in the United States, it is a difficult subject to broach in general. Locally, some say there are some parties  that can go on for hours at a loud volume and not get shut down. However, there are reports of other parties that can only go on for a half an hour and then be promptly shut down. There are many factors that could lead to a party getting shut down, unceremoniously or otherwise including noise levels, too many people and, some report, race. 

Brockport is trying hard to make a change on campus, but it is difficult when there is still such distrust between law enforcement and students. This relationship makes people question if there will ever be any real change. Events like Brockport’s Night Out, Cops on Top and Nugs and Drugs are doing their best to get police officers interacting with students in a friendlier, non-threatening manner so individual officers and students are able to establish and foster their own relationships. 

While partying is imbedded within the student culture here at Brockport, sometimes these parties are the only form of release from a rough week at school for some students. Students who are under age and can’t participate in the bar scene, or students who just want an excuse to hang out, lose the opportunity to destress when these get shut down. There seems to be a need for a compromise between the behavior of students and some of the resulting actions of the police. Simply shutting down parties is creating an early tension with  students and if the students are in a state to not comprehend why the ticket, the arrest, the end of the party is occurring, that only contributes to the miscommunications and increases the on-edge-feeling some get when interacting with law enforcement officials.

We at The Stylus believe that we can better our relationship with the police by discussing the topic, and Chief Vasile agrees. 

“We realize these barricades exist but we believe these events can make a difference here in our Brockport community,” he says. “We have to open up the lines of communication and create a dialogue.” 

There are ways that the relationship between both police forces can better their relationships with the students, but it will take some time, effort and trust on both sides in order to make this a reality.

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