WFU Police Department focuses on community engagement

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a Presidential Proclamation declaring May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which it falls as National Police Week.

More than 50 years later, as law enforcement officials across the country find their profession under a national spotlight, the Wake Forest University Police Department (WFUPD) has worked to strengthen its commitment to community engagement and building trust.

“Community engagement is our highest priority. We recognize that building – and in some cases regaining – the trust of the campus will be a journey and established simple but critical goals,” said WFUPD Chief Regina Lawson. “We are committed to regaining our community trust one conversation at a time, significantly improving our relationship with all facets of our campus community, and modeling new initiatives for other campus departments.”

Lawson said that the town hall meeting students held in March 2014 helped the department listen more closely to what the campus community needed and expected from WFUPD.

“That meeting was only the start of a great many meetings with students, faculty and staff in a wide variety of formats and settings that have helped the University Police Department and all served by it.”

In the past year, the department has:

  • Called on the City of Winston-Salem Human Relations Commission to host Campus Trust Talks between the police and campus community;
  • Facilitated “Chats with the Chief” with various groups across campus;
  • Participated in many campus-wide initiatives designed to build trust with those in the campus community, including a second town hall meeting convened by students; the Campus Climate Collaborative convened by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion; the President’s Leadership Conference convened by Student Government, in collaboration with the Office of the President; and more.

Lawson said the department is already benefiting from the recommendations relating to policing as part of a University-wide effort to improve the campus climate. The newly created Police Accountability Task Force is addressing recommendations regarding the police, and the department is also collaborating closely with the Police Advisory Board, the CARE team and the Incident Review Committee.

Close listening to community members has led to officers participating in more training related to bias and diversity, such as the following select list:

  • Unconscious Bias Training Workshops;
  • Bias Incident Response Training Workshops;
  • Appreciating Differences: A Campus Racial Diversity Workshop;
  • Winter Institute for intercultural Communication; and
  • The upcoming Fair and Impartial Policing Training Workshop

In April, WFUPD staged a Campus Law Enforcement Best Practices Session, with representatives from private and pubic schools, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, Davidson College, Furman University, and more.

“All that’s occurred in the past year is just a beginning for more to come, building on what has been learned and setting new goals for expanded community engagement,” Lawson said.

Additional information about WFUPD activity is available on the Community in Progress website.