UCPD officers and students gathered in the Rainbow Center this past Thursday for Pizza with the Police, an event that encouraged community and communication between UConn students and UCPD officers.
Before the event had officially started, UCPD officers dispersed themselves among the students in an effort to start conversations. The officers talked to students as if they were old friends, asking students about their studies, reminiscing on their own college days and sharing funny anecdotes about UConn’s police force. It was incredibly interesting to interact with UCPD officers in such an informal setting, allowing students to see them as people instead of just officers.
Jenn Newton, a fifth semester civil engineering major, enjoyed getting to know the UCPD officers in such a relaxed setting.
“It was nice talking to the police officers on campus because I haven’t actually spoken to them one-on-one, so it was a nice setting to really just talk to them as people.” Newton said.
After getting a chance to talk with the students, the officers began the event. Pizza with the Police consisted of three communication and teambuilding exercises. The first of these exercises featured a long metal pole with several metal, hexagonal nuts. The objective of the activity was to remove all of the nuts from the pole, but without spinning the nuts themselves.
The second activity asked participants to transport balls from one side of the room to another while using an odd assortment of objects like pipes, baskets, spoons and a plunger. Students had to get creative in utilizing all the objects and work closely as a team to ensure that none of the balls fell on the floor.
The final activity had participants hold onto a piece of string that was tied to a metal ring. Perched precariously on top of the ring was a ball, which participants had to keep balanced as they acted out a series of tasks like sitting down and standing up, walking in a circle and bouncing the ball in the air in hopes of it landing in a bucket.
Throughout the activities, students and officers worked together to accomplish the tasks. Lieutenant Jason Hyland of UCPD Community Outreach Unit stated that the point of these events were to build relationships between officers and students.
“When you do this kind of community interaction, almost like an ice breaker kind of event, it’s a chance to start building relationships with people before they need you for help,” stated Lieutenant Hyland. “It starts to build community, and it includes officers in that community as well.”
Lieutenant Hyland believes that it is incredibly important for officers to interact with students, and to build a sense of community. The UCPD held over 300 educational events last year, including classes on workplace safety and violence against women, as well as parent orientations and the First Year Experience with freshmen.
“They are a great way to really circle back on communication and community, and for me, I’ve thought that community is of key importance with safety… knowing the people you spend time with and building a relationship of trust, then we look out for each other,” Lieutenant Hyland said.
It is safe to say that the UCPD’s intention in hosting this event was a success, as many students left thinking about the officers in a different light.
One of these students was seventh semester Molecular and Cell Biology and Pathobiology major Alexis Dziubek. “We usually seem really removed from them, and that humanizing aspect is really interesting in making me think differently about the different things that go on around campus, and just give me a new perspective,” Dziubek said.
Lauren Brown is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.