As protestors nationwide call for police reforms, the NKU Police Department is working to strengthen ties to campus minority groups, such as the Latino and LGBTQ+ communities. These initiatives include book scholarships, care packages for students and social media posts.
Since it is currently Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15), NKU Police have focused a lot of their attention on what they can do to help members of this community—whether they be students, staff, faculty or other community members.
Police Chief John Gaffin explained some of the initiatives that the NKU Police have been taking in working with the Hispanic and Latino community. They are offering book scholarships for students, putting together care packages for students recommended by the NKU Latino Programs and Services Office and are utilizing social media in order to highlight Hispanic and Latino students on campus, including some who are interested in careers with law enforcement.
According to Gaffin, it is important, especially for police officers, to stand up for members of minority communities. Due to the recent police-related deaths of civilians such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, there is national tension between police officers and members of minority groups.
“When people show up on campus with maybe a negative perception of police, these aren’t necessarily acts that we were implicated in or that we had anything to do with, but if we have a uniform or a badge, we are judged on the conduct of everyone with a uniform and a badge,” Gaffin said. “What happens elsewhere impacts us, so we need to know what happens nationally so we can engage appropriately.”
On the first day of the fall semester, NKU police officers held a community pledge event in which they made a pledge to always treat their community members with dignity and respect. Gaffin emphasized that building and maintaining relationships with community members should be the essence of police.
“I can only do so much. If you don’t know me until you have a problem, we don’t have a lot to work with. We don’t have a pre-existing relationship or don’t have a background,” Gaffin said. “That is why relationship building is very important. These are strange circumstances, but we can be adaptable and work with everyone that we can, no matter the circumstances.”
Lieutenant Will Love touched on why relationship building is especially fundamental.
“A priority is building relationships, especially with students. Having those one-on-one conversations with students. Just talking about anything, from sports to their classes, anything like that—that’s very important. We are constantly trying to improve throughout the year, even if we think we’re doing a great job. We always want to improve and do more, continue to build those relationships and make them stronger.”
These efforts have not gone unnoticed. Leo Calderon, director of Latino programs and services at NKU, is happy with the work that police have been doing.
He said that what Gaffin is doing to promote the Hispanic and Latino community is wonderful and innovative. He likes that police officers have good relationships and conversations with students and that they are doing a good job in educating students on what their role is and why they are here.
“This is a very interesting time in our society, with the pandemic and unemployment. We just need to adjust to the new normal and do the best we can. We are a resilient society and it’s critical and important that we listen to our students. The NKU police have done a very good job in doing that,” Calderon said. Not only have NKU Police been able to provide help, resources, and communication to students, but they have been doing so during a pandemic.
Aside from helping the Hispanic and Latino community, the NKU Police also has campaigns planned for LGBTQ History Month, Black History Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Gaffin said that they intended to not only educate people about these issues but also to show them that they wanted to work together with the community and continue to learn and understand.