Public Safety Advocates (PSAs), a new community engagement initiative with the UD Public Safety Department, were introduced to the public at an open forum on Feb. 19.
UD Chief of Police and Executive Director of Public Safety Rodney Chatman said the idea for the student-led group is possibly the first in the nation and that other colleges and universities may imitate what is being done at UD.
The PSAs are a group of UD student volunteers who serve as an intermediary between Public Safety and UD students. A concern held by the seven PSAs is the gap between the student body and the police department, which they hope to bridge.
“We want this to be your police department,” said Huthayfa Usman, one of the student supervisors to the PSAs.
Usman, a first year, was one of two UD students to start the group. Usman said he and John Gutsmiedl, a senior, approached Chatman with the idea for the group. Chatman liked the idea and encouraged them to begin planning.
Usman said it took several meetings for him and Gutsmiedl to get familiar with each other and then it took some time for them to figure out the technicalities of making a direct branch off of the Community Engagement division of the Public Safety Department. From there, they had to recruit. Seven UD students, who were interviewed by Usman, Gutsmiedl and Chatman, were selected. On Jan. 26, they were sworn in at a ceremony with the Public Safety Department.
The group consists of one senior, three sophomores and three first years. During the open forum, each member focused on their desire to bring Public Safety and the student body together. Their goals as a group are to facilitate concerns to the Public Safety Department, introduce students to Public Safety officers and work with both students and officers to create a safer campus environment.
Additionally, some of the PSAs mentioned that they have specific goals to focus on in the position they’ve been given, such as international students and their relationship with the police, the mental health of both students and police officers and getting police officers to understand the various cultures and backgrounds students come from.
The PSAs also want students to know that they don’t have any legal power like the police. They aren’t police officers, and they aren’t here to “rat” on students. During the question and answer session conducted at the forum, a student asked if the PSAs would ever conduct rounds throughout the student neighborhood. Gutsmiedl said that wasn’t their job, or purpose, to do.
“We’re just one of you guys,” said Annemarie Rizzo, one of the sophomore PSAs. “This blue polo doesn’t change the fact that we share the same concerns and the same voice.”
Officer Nick Orrill, the community engagement officer for UD Public Safety, said he has high hopes for the PSAs. He said that he wants UD students to be able to see past the uniforms of the police officers and see that they are people too.
“It’s just what I wear,” Orrill said. “I mean, it’s no different from wearing T-shirts and jeans.”
Orrill said he wants students to know that police officers will chat with them and hang out with them. He wants the barriers to be broken down between students and officers, so they can begin to relate on a personal level. This will hopefully lead to students seeing the officers out in the neighborhood and starting conversations, and maybe a few games of cornhole.
The idea of community is an important one to Orrill and the PSAs. Orrill, Chatman and the PSAs hope to unite UD’s students and police officers into one happy and comfortable community that sees no difference between UD hoodies and police uniforms.
The PSAs have set up an Instagram account (@udpd_psa), where UD students can express concerns or ask questions through direct messages. The account is checked daily and updates students on what the PSAs are planning next.
PSA Members: Supervisors – Huthayfa Usman (First Year) and John Gutsmiedl (Senior), Annemarie Rizzo (Sophomore), Dena Schaeffer (Sophomore), Tyera Brown (Sophomore), Carissa Ritzler (First Year), Kaylin Florentino (First Year).
Photo taken from the PSA instagram account.