Opinion: ASU students and local PD must work toward a mutually trusting relationship

ASU and Tempe Police exist to help students through harmful situations

ASU is one of the largest public universities in the nation, and despite the decline of its party-school reputation, the Sun Devils still rank in the top 50 of party schools in America.

With so many students at ASU coupled with the school's consistent party culture, it is important that students and the Tempe PD have a healthy relationship built on mutual trust and respect.

However, many students feel that if they are in a compromised position where they may face serious consequences, they can't trust the police to help handle the situation. Although students may still face consequences, it is important that they prioritize their well-being and safety. 

Across the country, tensions between police and the general public have been on the rise. Movements including Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter have drawn attention to a culture of distrust between citizens and law enforcement. 

On ASU's campus, relationships between students and police officers certainly aren't as strained as those that have received national attention, but emphasizing a relationship with police-based in dialogue and communication is still important.  

Fortunately, Tempe PD and ASU have been working together to develop strategies that will improve a potentially strained relationship and build a safer community both on and off campus.

A recent example of this joint effort is a three-year de-escalation program funded by the Department of Justice that intends to help analyze how police officers can most effectively handle tense situations. 

It's inaccurate to assume that Tempe or ASU Police are intending to punish ASU students, but it's a narrative that isn't uncommon among the student body. Their job is to ensure the safety of our entire community. 

"I generally find Tempe PD to be a very progressive, research friendly, data driven department that cares deeply about the surrounding community, which of course, includes ASU," said Danielle Wallace, associate professor in ASU's School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

One of the most important parts of developing a strong relationship between police and the student body is awareness on both sides. The police department should be aware of the race, age and genders of the community that they serve, and students should understand the goals and missions of their local departments. 

Despite the nationally spread tensions between the Black Lives Matter movement and police departments, Tempe PD has sat down with local members of the movement to help develop a healthier relationship.

"Tempe PD should remain knowledgeable about who is in the student population and how to meet their needs while simultaneously not perpetuating the belief that all police are going to mistreat individuals, particularly minorities," Wallace said.

While it is important that the Tempe Police takes initiative in developing a strong relationship within the community, students must also take on some of the responsibility.

"Citizen/police relationships are difficult, and they can't be one-sided," Wallace said. "Tempe Police does a lot to work with the community, including their body camera program. Students should work to see Tempe Police as a resource."

College culture includes partying, which occasionally results in the need for a student to request the help of a police department. If a student is in need of emotional support or medical aid, they should not hesitate to seek immediate attention in fear of consequences.

"ASU PD, Tempe PD, and the faculty and staff of ASU at large want a safe campus and off-campus environment for everyone," Wallace said. "There's always a way to seek help."   

Although the police department may not be able to stop parties, they are often the ones to respond to calls for help when things go wrong. Students must understand that in times of need, the police are there to help, and their goal is not to get everyone in trouble. 

It's the responsibility of both police and students to ensure a harmonious relationship, and as members of the community, facilitating conversation is a crucial way to do that. Attend Coffee with a Cop events, go to some of ASU Police's Sexual Assault Awareness Month events, create dialogue. 

The ASU community would benefit greatly from having a strong relationship with Tempe Police, and it is important that students are a part of developing a more genuine relationship that is founded on trust and respect.

Reach the columnist at adunn11@asu.edu or follow @adrienne_dunn on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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