Coffee with a Cop helps put students at ease
The Energy Research Park was alive with chatter early Thursday morning when the University of Houston Police Department held its latest Coffee With A Cop event.
When Sgt. Dina Padovan, UHPD’s crime prevention coordinator, first organized the program two years ago she wanted to reach out to the community on campus.
“It’s really important (because of the) negative light (that) has been shining on the police,” communications senior Jasha Wildstar said. “With all of the shootings and robberies, a lot of students have been feeling unsafe.”
Wildstar, who attends night classes on campus, said she finds some comfort in meeting face-to-face with the campus security and getting to know who she can contact if needed.
That kind of student reaction is the reason Padovan wanted to start the program.
“It breaks down the barrier between law enforcement and the community anywhere, not just here at the university,” Padovan said. “As long as there are programs and the community interacts within those programs in a one-on-one environment, it can shine a positive light on what we do.”
Jacqueline Chee, former UHPD employee and current accountant at ERP, played a key role in bringing the program to UH and believes that there is a disconnect between the police and the people they serve.
“If you only hear from a third party and don’t get yourself involved, then you are forming your own perceptions without really understanding what is going on,” Chee said. “Having coffee with a cop, I hope, will help raise more awareness and bring the community together.”
Technology transfer associate Tanu Chatterji said they are happy to see the program come to campus and appreciate what UHPD is doing.
“It’s very important for us to know the security around campus and it’s comforting to see them, the cops especially, interact with us, talk about problems we’ve had and how they are trying to help,” Chatterji said. “It has definitely been positive for all of us.”
The program allows the community on campus to get to know the police in a way that personalizes them.
“We don’t have enough opportunities to get out and meet people in non-confrontational situations,” UH Chief of Police Ceaser Moore said. “A lot of people are afraid of cops. (Cops) don’t have the opportunity to interact with them, so this is a chance to talk to their cops and find out who is working out here for them.”