University police officers have been assigned to each Ball State dorm to attend events, help students during move-in and address any of their needs. The aim of this program, according to UPD Chief James Duckham, is to build connections and feelings of trust with students. Ren Rainey // Photo Provided
UPD officers assigned to residence halls to make connections with students
When Lieutenant David Huff of the University Police Department started knocking on residents' doors inside of LaFollette Complex, it was only a matter of seconds before he belted out an important question to an unsuspecting student behind her door.
“You’re on the clock," Huff said. "Name three different desserts."
After opening her door, the confused Woody/Shales resident took a slight pause before responding to Huff.
“Cake, pie and ice cream,” she said.
Officer Travis Stephens, who was accompanying Huff on the important assignment, quickly presented her with a bag of candy and a big smile before the two officers moved on to the next resident's door.
Since the start of the new semester, activities like this have become a regular sight at residence halls across campus. As of this August, each Ball State residence hall has been assigned a UPD officer to invite to hall events, help with move-ins and build relationships with residents, allowing students to talk to officers about whatever they might need.
Part of this initiative included putting up posters of assigned officers in their respective halls. Each poster contains information about how to contact the specific officer, as well as a photo of them so residents know who the officers are and what they look like.
According to UPD Chief James Duckham, the aim of this program is to build connections and feelings of trust with students.
“The goal is allowing students to get to know you in a non-traditional law enforcement role. So that you’re not just the officer that came and took your police report, or the officer that came because you had a problem," Duckham said. "You’re the officer that they know from the building, who you see every couple days and you say hello to.”
While officers have been involved with residence hall events for several years, Duckham said this is the first year particular officers have been paired with residence halls.
According to Huff, he’s already seen the difference this can make.
“An officer on my shift got a phone call specifically requesting him," Huff said. "A student wanted to speak with that officer, strictly because he was assigned to her dorm, and she felt more comfortable speaking with him about an issue.”
In addition to helping with move-ins and doing door-to-door games, officers have also been involved in a number of residence hall activities since the beginning of the semester, including alcohol awareness talks and games allowing students to try on beer goggles and try field sobriety tests.
Woody/Shales resident Katerina Herodotou said she and her roommate have felt more secure since they heard that a UPD officer was assigned to their dorm. Herodotou said she believed they’d feel more comfortable talking with their residence hall officer about any problems that might arise in the future.
“It definitely makes you feel safer, you know, being girls," Herodotou said. "It takes away some of the danger you feel being on campus.”
In addition to the positive student reactions, Stephens said he has also gotten positive feedback from parents who feel relieved to know there is an officer they or their student can reach out to in case of an issue. The hope is that the initiative will be long term, and both Huff and Stephens agreed they're excited and hopeful for what will come for the program.
“It's a great program that has been going really well," Huff said. "My hope is that this affects not only our students while they are here at Ball State but also enables them to have a positive image of law enforcement in their home communities.”