New initiatives connect RUPD to students
"There is more to Rice University Police Department than a badge and blue uniform," Interim Police Captain Clemente Rodriguez said.
To prove this to students and the Rice community, RUPD has instituted a new training program to acclimate incoming officers to working at Rice. RUPD is also encouraging officers to help improve student-officer relations by eating lunch with students.
The new training program works to show incoming officers how the university functions as a whole so they can better understand how to monitor the campus. Rodriguez calls the three-week curriculum a mini training academy.
During the academy, masters, Associate Dean Donald Ostdiek and Rice News and Media are just a few of the Rice community members who will come to speak to the officers about different entities on campus, like the residential colleges and University Court. Rodriguez said these talks are helpful because they give officers a chance to ask questions and meet community members earlier than they used to – new officers are often assigned night shifts and therefore do not meet as many people right away.
"[The training] helps them to know who to contact," Captain Rodriguez said. "It helps them utilize the proper avenues available."
Before the training was implemented, new officers were paired up with a superior and trained in the field. The new training helps officers move through their field training with greater ease, Rodriguez said.
In addition to acclimating new officers, Rodriguez is encouraging all of RUPD to get more involved with students by eating lunch in the serveries and has started doing so himself to set an example.
"I wouldn't ask [the officers] to do something I don't want to," Rodriguez said. "I'll be out there too."
Usually only officers already on a college patrol would eat in the serveries, Rodriguez said. Now, all RUPD officers are encouraged to eat there.
"The good thing about officers knowing students is that students are our best source of information," Rodriguez said. "The key to our success has been students communicating with us."
College presidents across campus are trying to help students connect with RUPD, Lovett College President Bridgette Bennett said. There has been an obvious disconnect between students and RUPD, but since Rodriguez became interim captain, there have been noticeable changes, Bennett, a senior, said.
"With associates, I've had to coax students to eat with them," Bennett said. "One day, I walked in the servery and saw a couple of officers, and when I came back out, people were already pulling up extra chairs to sit with them."
Bennett said that RUPD's visibility at Powderpuff games, Cabinet and other events is causing students to respond positively to their presence.
"I have to applaud Captain Rodriguez," Bennett said. "He's like a Rice professor; he thinks out of the box. I really appreciate his innovative thinking and leadership in trying to improve quality of life for students."
Jones College Social Sid Mullick said RUPD getting to know students will help ease students' fears of contacting RUPD in party situations.
"Students will be less afraid to talk to officers if something bad happens," Mullick, a sophomore, said.
Students are not going to shy away from officers if they put themselves out there, Wiess College sophomore Bobby Prengle said.
"That's just the culture of Rice," Prengle said. "You can go up to anyone and have lunch. If you're friendly, no one is going to be mean back to you."
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