You may recognize Ben Volpe. He is a native of New York, enjoys football, soccer, hockey and candy – and all of this is posted on a bulletin board in Ivory Tower. That is because Volpe – a University Police officer – is a member of the UPD program, adopt-an-officer.
The adopt-an-officer program, created by UPD in 1996, looks to change the sometimes hostile relationship that exists between its officers and students by fostering a familiarity among those that live in the residence halls and those that patrol them.
“It makes the students feel more comfortable with us, and I think we’re very successful in that and we can progress,” said Chris Gearhart, a UPD master patrol officer.
Gearhart, a member of the adopt-an-officer program, patrols Thurston as well as Fulbright Halls. He said he enjoys being with freshmen because, “they are like Play Doh – you can shape them and they’re very inquisitive. I like to answer their questions.”
Each time officers drop by the floor, students have the opportunity to interact with them and gain an enhanced level of comfort that most likely would not be there had the program not been created.
“It’s a very successful program that helps establish a rapport with the students and it gives them an opportunity to see a face behind the police officer,” he said.
UPD Chief Dolores Stafford said she thinks the program helps students feel more inclined to express a concern they may have about security or safety because they already have a friendly relationship with an officer.
“There are people who wouldn’t necessarily pick up the phone and call UPD about something that concerned them,” Stafford said. “But if they know an officer and they have a rapport with them, I feel like they would say it to them.”
One of the ultimate goals of the department is to improve its service based on feedback from students. The adopt-an-officer program is one way of achieving that.
“We looked at it when we first started it as another opportunity for students to be able to communicate with us as an organization,” she said. “Because in the end, we want information – no matter how we’re going get it – if somebody has a concern about anything that is security of safety related.”
Bernard Taylor, a senior security officer, and a member of the program, said he enjoys patrolling Thurston, where he sits at the front desk in the lobby.
“It’s great because 95 percent of the time I get a chance to interact with them right there when they’re coming in and going out,” Taylor said. “Even if it’s just the little things, like when they should fasten up their coat for the rain, any type of interaction is good.”