Campus News

UWPD answers student concerns on communication, safety in forum

UWPD officials met with UW-Madison community members in Union South Monday to discuss community concerns regarding police and safety. 

Image By: Junaid Khalid

University of Wisconsin Police Department officials fielded questions from a small group of UW-Madison community members Monday in Union South — and communication was the main talking point.

Yogev Ben-Yitschak, the Associated Students of Madison’s outreach director, was the first to raise the question of UWPD’s communication with the campus community.

According to Ben-Yitschak, an informal survey he conducted last year found that much of student population was unaware that UW-Madison practiced medical amnesty, a policy that protects students from being liable for actions that may result in them seeking medical attention.

Ben-Yitschak’s survey found that, of the 1,600 students surveyed, about 66 percent of the students said they were in situations where they could have called for help but fewer than 10 percent of students actually called UWPD. He wanted to know why this was the case.

UWPD Field Services Captain Jason Whitney acknowledged that while it is difficult to communicate with a campus that welcomes new students every year, the most important issue is that students get the help that they need.

According to Whitney, university police are more focused on the safety of students rather than handing out citations, and that the department encourages students to communicate and build relationships with police.

“We just want to make sure that people get the help that they need,” Whitney said. “We are not looking to write a bunch of extra citations for people [who are trying to help their friends].”

Other UW-Madison community members joined the forum — which was broadcasted live on UWPD’s Facebook account — through social media. One Twitter user was concerned about the emerging gang presence just “one block away from the freshman dorms.”

Kristen Roman, UW-Madison’s police chief, said one way to combat this issue was through communication with Madison police. When there are issues that affect both the city and the university, Roman said, it is important that the departments are on “the same page.”

“The best support is to be engaged with the students about access to on-going information and updates,” Roman said. “There is a lot of information that students and parents can look to to find out what is happening.”

Despite the “trust challenges” between students and police that were revealed by the recent campus climate survey, Roman says she is impressed with the interactions between UWPD and the university during her nearly 11 months with the department.

“I have been incredibly impressed with the degree and level of collaboration that takes place on campus,” Roman said. “We are doing really really well.”

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