Keeping it cool with campus police

Students and faculty at Historically Black Colleges and Universities speak on relationships with campus police.
Photo courtesy of Scott Roth

Building relationships between campus police, students and faculty at colleges and universities is vital because it maintains a productive and trustful relationship to improve student’s lives and safety on campus. Campus police officers are sworn into their role to protect and assist those who work and live on the campus. The role of a campus police officer is to monitor the security of buildings, students and staff, in addition to regulating traffic and investigating crimes. At Florida A&M University and other historically black colleges (HBCUs), students and faculty express their individual perspective and relationship with campus police while attending their school and workplace.  

“To be completely honest, my relationship with campus police is non-existent, though I have never had a run-in with them, the police presence on campus feels really comfortable, I have walked the campus after midnight and never felt fear,” says Jada Hill, a senior at Florida A&M University.“I do feel like some sort of relationship with campus police is necessary. For some, this is our home away from home whereas we do not have the protection of our parents or family so the next best thing to feel some protection is from campus police.”

In recent years, many students and staff at historically black colleges and universites expressed deep regards against their campus police after acts of gun violence, sexual assault and domestic violence surfaced on campus. North Carolina A&T University (NCAT) students raised concerns about their safety after a shooting death on campus in April 2017. A year prior, two students were shot and killed at a house party near NCAT.  Louis Tre Zanders, son of head FAMU football coach was shot near the football stadium on Feb. 2021, according to WTXL news. 

According to a NewsOne report, Black colleges contributed to 25 percent of all schools’ gun violence in 2018. Sexual assault and domestic violence have led students to question their well-being at Howard University. Based on the Office of Justice Programs journal, 9.7 percent of undergraduate women at an HBCU report incidents of sexual assault while attending college. 

“There are never enough officers to patrol a campus,” said Kenneth Jones, a professor at Florida A&M University. 

After violent acts occur near campus, students and faculty are expected to immediately inform campus police in order to investigate the incident and provide help. Many HBCU students and faculty have voiced uncertainty within the relationship with campus police and want to seek change. 

“It’s important for us to have a relationship with campus police because as a Black student it is hard to trust outside police officers, so we should at least be able to trust our own police on campus,” said Daryl Lewis, a junior at Florida A&M University.

Audrey Alexander, an administrative lieutenant, has been with the Florida A&M University  police department for 26 years. “The key thing to remember about this whole concept is that strong relationships of mutual trust between the police and the community they serve are critical to maintain public safety and effective policing. We should rely on each other and work together to keep our campus safe.” Alexander said. 

Alexander continued by stating that victims of crime should call 850-599-3256 or report to 2400 Wahnish Way, Tallahassee, Florida 32310 immediately to begin a timely investigation. Also, the alleged suspect can be arrested and/or expelled from school. 

There are various ways to improve students and faculty’s relationship with campus police such as meeting regularly to discuss violence prevention, identifying an officer to trust and organizing self-defense training activities. 

Through consistent and high-quality police services, campus police can build a trustworthy, comfortable and collaborative union with students and faculty.