A new community policing initiative by The University of Southern Mississippi Police Department aims to expand lines of communication between the department and students living on campus.
The Residence Hall COPP (Community Oriented Policing Plan) kicked off this fall semester. It is designed to better serve the residence life community in providing a safe and healthy learning environment by expanding communication between officers and students, as well as residence life staff.
Through COPP, students gain an additional point of contact to help resolve their concerns or answer questions, said Southern Miss Chief of Police Robert Hopkins.
“Sometimes residents are hesitant to report issues that come up, and then these issues build up. We can help address them sooner,” said Southern Miss Police Chief Bob Hopkins. “We want them to know they can approach our officers about any concern or questions they have.
“Their concerns don’t have to be law enforcement issues. It can be that the music down the hall is too loud, a clogged sink or they have questions about their meal plan or housing assignment. We can relay these to the appropriate staff,” he said.
Police officers are assigned to one or more residence halls, including Greek Life and Pine Haven family housing, with posted photos of the officers and their contact information, including phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
Southern Miss police officers associated with the program also meet weekly with residence life staff to discuss issues brought to them by students or to discuss ideas and strategies that can enhance the student experience in the residence halls.
“We want students to feel comfortable expressing these concerns so they don’t feel like they to have take some kind of drastic action like moving out of the residence hall or withdrawing from school,” Hopkins said.
Stephanie Seal of Poplarville, a junior history major and assistant hall director at Bolton Hall, believes the COPP program will prove beneficial to residents. “Having our residents know the names and faces of the officers is very comforting to them, and having that relationship with UPD will hopefully encourage our students to ask for help when needed,” she said.
Lt. Charles Chandler, who is assigned to Bolton Hall, said he wants students to look at police officers as not just someone they go to for help with an emergency, but about any quality of life issue on campus.
“We’re providing another means for students to access the university resources they need,” Chandler said. “This is just another way we as a department can reach out and provide support.
“They (residence life staff) are already doing a great job but if we can do anything to help them achieve their goals, that’s a good thing,” he said.
Residence Life Director Dr. Chris Crenshaw said his department and UPD have developed a strong partnership toward providing a more safe and secure campus for our students through the program.
“We’re constantly discussing alternatives for improving campus safety and the total student experience, and the COPP program is a result of some of those discussions,” he said.
“Our combined efforts let students know their safety is important to us and will hopefully result in strong relationships and communications between our students, Residence Life and UPD.”
Hopkins said that COPP is also a way that the department can augment the university’s retention efforts by focusing on quality of life issues for residents. Making the residence life experience a quality one can also enhance the academic experience, he said.
“It’s been documented that students who live on campus do better in school and complete their degree, and we want to do everything we can to make that happen,” Hopkins said.
For more information about the COPP program, contact University Police at 601.266.4986; or call Residence Life at 601.266.4783.
Southern Miss police officer Eric Lightsey helps with directions during move-In-day at the university’s Hattiesburg campus. The University Police Department is working to expand lines of communication between the department and campus residents to further enhance the total student experience at the university. (Southern Miss photo by Steve Rouse)
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.