Opening Dialogue Between Police & Students

Editorial Cartoon by Derek Zimmermann
Editorial Cartoon by Derek Zimmermann

While we commend and appreciate the efforts that some students and police (notably the University Police Committee and Lt. Johnny Coxum) have made, we believe it is time for all students and university police officers to find middle ground and work toward achieving a better relationship.

Students, it is always important to speak out on issues you feel passionately about. Whether you’re passionate about the legalization of marijuana or dedicated to fight against police brutality, we should always note that police officers don’t write laws, they only enforce them. They are committed to our safety, and we should be thankful for their presence in town and on campus. Whether you agree with the laws they defend or not, it’s important to remember that their jobs are to enforce laws meant to keep us safe.

Police officers, we will always appreciate your presence on campus. But students genuinely want a better relationship with you and sometimes feel like their efforts toward friendship aren’t met in return.

It would mean a lot to students if more of you showed up to the student-police meetings that are set up by the University Police Committee.

Some students have genuine and legitimate concerns about the manner and ways in which police treat students when enforcing the law. While it is certainly arguable that police mistreatment is sometimes exaggerated or blown out of proportion, there are many documented cases of police unprofessional mannerisms that appear in the media, and students have every right to question their local police on their conduct.

We believe a respectful and rewarding dialogue can be developed between students and police, but we also believe a little effort is involved in achieving this.

We suggest students say hello to officers in passing, and learn officers’ names. They should be friends you can trust, not enemies you avoid. Just recently, the campus police caught an a non-student who was stealing students’ backpacks, laptops and credit cards. We owe them thanks and appreciation, not hostility and distrust.

Understand that their purpose is to help us, so help them out by abiding laws and reporting things to police that they should know about. On their website,, there is a feature called “Silent Witness” that allows students to make anonymous reports of a crime that is occurring or has occurred on campus.

While we understand and expect that police will continue to enforce the law, we ask that they do so with an understanding that every student is somebody’s son or daughter, a son or daughter who has a future well beyond being a student at SUNY New Paltz. Even if you must arrest them, please do so with respect.

It would be great if both police and students showed up to the University Police Committee’s meetings. We think it’s a good opportunity to for students and police to engage in constructive dialogue that can enlighten both groups and lead to a more harmonious relationship. But students, please remember this is an opportunity to work toward understanding, not an opportunity for a “police-bashing session” as some cops have felt it turned into.

If we all take steps toward a better relationship, both the New Paltz campus and community would benefit.