Law enforcement hopes to improve relationship with students

By Sophia Mullowney

DeKALB – Campus and DeKalb police, various Greek organizations and students gathered at 5 p.m. Wednesday evening at Barsema Hall for a safety meet-and-greet intended to connect the campus with law enforcement.

Various Greek liaisons and campus organizations were present to bridge the gap between students and law enforcement. These included the Panhellenic Association, Interfraternity Council, Centers for Black and Latino Studies, Asian American Resource Center, Gender and Sexuality Resource Center and others.

Topics up for discussion included the continuation of DeKalb and NIU police efforts to build an ongoing relationship with the campus community by holding future events in the same sphere of student engagement.

NIU Chief of Police Tom Phillips spoke on the importance of frequently holding safety forums.

“There’s always room to grow,” said Phillips. “It’s not something we can do once and think it’s going to last. We have to constantly stay in contact with our community. Especially working in a university environment, we get new students every year, so we have to establish those relationships and maintain them throughout.”

Phillips said he encourages students and faculty to keep an eye out for upcoming department events in the spring. These include a 10-week citizen’s police academy, sexual assault defence training and active threat awareness education.

A frequent point of discussion was fostering campus unity with law enforcement. Dean of Students Kelly Wesener-Michael said she is enthusiastic for seeing safety forums take place.

“It’s important that we are all on the same team in terms of trying to make sure everyone is safe and having a great experience,” said Wesener-Michael. “The police, both NIU as well as DeKalb are really key partners with the university, particularly when it comes to working with our students off campus and making sure that we have good positive relationships in our community,”

Junior public health major Nick Bond said he wants to see a more cohesive relationship between police and students. He and his friends had approached an officer attending the forum with the opportunity to speak at an event they had organized for the Student Health Organization.

“More stuff like this, actually connecting with students, so you can see them when you’re not in trouble, that can definitely help,” Bond said.

Many of the students who attended the forum came to represent the various greek organizations on campus. Junior marketing major Patrick Mulhern of Phi Kappa Theta said he was grateful for the police presence on Greek Row in the last week.

“It really makes me feel safe because I’ll be out late some nights, and I know it kind of gets dangerous out there,” said Mulhern. “Seeing the cops on patrol makes me feel better. We’re all on the same page here, we just want better safety. They’re doing their best, and I’m happy that they’re communicating with us here.”

Officers attending the event also imparted guidance on how to take advantage of social events on campus. Police commander Steve Lekkas said he had some words of advice for students attending.

“Be smart, have a good plan in place,” Lekkas said. “Situational awareness is always really important. From there, get the most out of the college experience, go to events, but be smart about it. Have a plan, and we won’t have to have a negative encounter.”