Now entering its seventh year at Boston College, the Adopt-A-Cop/Community Liaison program, sponsored by the BCPD and the Office of Residential Life, continues to grow.
“The Adopt-A-Cop program was launched as a joint partnership between BCPD and BC Reslife, and the concept emerged at the time as a way to build and strengthen relationships between the police, ResLife, and the residential students on campus,” said Jeffrey Postell, sergeant of community Policing, Community Relations and Crime Prevention. “The program has been successful, but I always think anything can be more successful.”
In the past, the Adopt-A-Cop program assigned BCPD officers who volunteered for the program to various residence halls on campus.
“In the past, our officers would volunteer their time on weekends and off days to come in and spend time with the residents,” Postell said. “That’s something that we’re very proud of. That’s what kind of officers we have here.”
Officers would attend programs in the residence halls, sponsor community education classes, and build connections with resident students. Postell says those goals remain, but his hope is that the program will continue to grow and become integral to the BC experience.
Postell, a strong advocate for the community policing model being rolled out at BC and other universities, emphasized the presence of a two way street between students and the police department, saying that both have obligations to the other. “If it wasn’t for our students we wouldn’t be here, so we have an obligation to provide public safety services and to protect their persons, their property, and to build relationships,” he said. “But on the flip side of the coin, if it wasn’t for faculty and staff, we wouldn’t have students.”
Described as a wheel, BCPD and the Office of Residential Life create the center hub of a safe, welcoming community, Postell said. Spokes off the wheel represent the various aspects of BC life, including academics, athletics, and diversity. It is this metaphor, Postell said, that emphasizes the importance of progress and “forward motion,” allowing students at BC to pursue their passions.
“The Adopt-A-Cop program works by forming a partnership, identifying programs, collaboratively working together to find solutions for those problems, and enhancing the knowledge, communication, and overall safety of everyone in our community,” Postell said.
Although students, especially college-aged students, are often skeptical of relationships with police officers, Postell emphasized the importance of building interpersonal relationships to the goals of the BCPD.
“The personal connection that our officers get with residents in assigned residence halls is priceless. That is a rewarding part of our job-having a positive effect and providing a positive outcome for folks that may have some problems. That’s what community policing is about.”
This year for the first time, the Adopt-A-Cop/Community Liaison program began with an orientation program for involved officers.
“This is the first year that our Adopt-A-Cop/Community Liaison consisted of an orientation program, which introduces officers to the expectations of the program and what they get out of the program. The orientation session allows the officers to gain some idea of what their roles are.”
During the orientation, officers met with representatives from various campus organizations, including the Women’s Resource Center, Allies, and the GLBTQ Leadership Council, Postell said. Through the training, the officers were introduced to their role as Adopt-A-Cops, and to the various resources offered on campus. The training prepared BCPD officers for offering programs in residence halls on topics from theft prevention to sexual assault.
“Not only are our officers out there meeting people, they’re also educating people with crime prevention and safety presentations and seminars,” Postell said.
This year, two dozen police officers are involved in the program. Moving forward, Postell hopes that number will increase to help attain more of the goals of the program.
Specifically, Postell stated his hope that students remember the Adopt-A-Cop program throughout their time at BC, learn more about police and general safety, and feel comfortable and confident approaching the police. In the future, Postell hopes that the Adopt-A-Cop/Community Liaison program will be the cornerstone of BCPD programs, and will spread to other universities interested in building a community policing model.
“In the future, we want to continue strengthening the community’s relationship with the police, being engaged, being somebody people can feel comfortable coming to,” Postell said. “It has been a rewarding program and it will continue to be a rewarding program through additional training for our officers and further connections with the community.”