The UW-Madison Police Department created the new Downtown Liaison Officer position Tuesday, according to Chief Kristen Roman.
The position will serve the off-campus area bordered by Lake Mendota, Lake Street, Gorham Street and Wisconsin Avenue. The role was created to serve as a liaison between students, the Madison Police Department and the University.
“It’s unique because it’s the first [community officer position] to venture into off-campus area,” Roman said. “The role of that officer will really be to be more of a liaison to these students in these neighborhoods, Langdon included.”
The new position will focus on proactivity rather than as a call-driven entity, according to Roman. Priorities will include identifying key stakeholders, building relationships and identifying important safety issues.
The announcement came after the Madison Police Department decided to remove the Langdon Street Resource Officer, although the UWPD’s decision is not related to that change, according to Roman.
In an interview on Tuesday, Roman said that UWPD is doing their best to make the new position coincide with the changes that are occurring within the MPD. UW-Madison student Brooke Wilczewski said that students feel unsafe with recent crimes that have happened.
“I appreciate that step in the right direction,” Wilczewski said. “But I think there needs to be more conversations had.”
The current Langdon Street Resource Officer, Damion Figueroa, will work with the new Downtown Liaison to help ease the transition. Figueroa will be asked to help the UWPD understand what he has been working on and identify the relationships that he has built, according to Roman.
“This is something that we have been looking at as a possibility of creating a greater presence in the form of a dedicated resource, at least for the last six to eight months,” Roman said. “We see this very much as a supplement and kind of an addition to the already existing and primary police services that the City of Madison Police Department provides.”
The UWPD has been working closely with the Associated Students of Madison and a student safety council to discuss safety concerns for off-campus students.
“We will be creating opportunities to hear from students and the community about this position, about what they see as important aspects and ways that we can utilize that resource,” Roman said. “We'll fine tune it as we go along based on input and feedback from the community that this position will be primarily serving.”
The position’s duties are still being developed, and will continue to be modified as the UWPD receives input from students and community members. They will continue to seek input from students on the new position through listening sessions, forums and surveys.
The officer’s key duties will be interacting with Greek life organizations and other students in a proactive way.
Chief Roman is urging students who want to get involved in campus safety and shaping the new position moving forward to reach out to her.
“We recognize that we can't do any of this alone,” Roman said. “For us to be safe, we all have to we all have to work together and that includes the students.”