The Tufts University Police Department hosted a Coffee with TUPD event at Hotung Café on Oct. 5. Tufts Dining provided free coffee and breakfast to students who came to speak with members of TUPD and the Department of Public Safety.
The purpose of the event was to foster closer relationships between the Department of Public Safety and the Tufts community by providing a space for interpersonal connection, according to TUPD’s Medford Station Commander Lieutenant Jameson Yee.
“The goal is attendees enjoyed their time at the event, and made new positive connections with our staff, and should be comfortable contacting us as a resource and support if ever needed,” Yee wrote in an email to the Daily.
Students and officers engaged in casual conversation over their coffees, discussing everything from students’ majors and hobbies to officers’ past experiences in law enforcement, as well as any shared interests. TUPD representatives were also able to answer students’ and community members’ questions about the department.
Jerry Zhao, a member of the Tufts Dining marketing team and an undergraduate student who attended to take photos, discussed the role the event had in facilitating interactions between students and TUPD.
“I think this is really helpful because usually students wouldn’t just approach TUPD in the dining hall and talk to them,” Zhao, a junior, said. “But you know, a more relaxing space [is] more helpful.”
Zhao believes that the event benefited both students and officers. He noted that Coffee with TUPD provided students with a better understanding of TUPD’s role on campus.
“I think the good thing about having more connections will be that the students will [have] more leverage on the resources that the TUPD has … not only emergency events but also in cases [where] students simply need help,” Zhao said.
He reasoned that events such as these can help officers connect with the community and provide them with a unique opportunity to hear students’ perspectives.
“It’d be nice to get students to really know that these aren’t just cold officers that are sitting in their office and driving around. [They] actually care about students and [want] to interact with them,” Zhao said. “And [from] the officer’s perspective, it’s good to know what students really want, and that wouldn’t be possible without really talking to them.”
Kristin Sarkisian, an administrative assistant at The Fletcher School, thought the event was successful in creating more connections with the Tufts community. Coffee with TUPD helped Sarkisian understand what resources were available to her as a staff member.
“I work at The Fletcher School, so I work with a bunch of students. I have student workers that report to me, so I talked [with TUPD] about how … they could help us as far as safety is concerned,” Sarkisian said. “I hope to see more events like this in the future.”
Another attendee, Angela Chen, a member of the Student Prison Education and Abolition Coalition, noted the importance of centering student safety during interactions with TUPD.
“Not everybody feels comfortable around police, because of the general climate of policing in the U.S.,” Chen, a sophomore, said. “It’s definitely an obstacle.”
Chen was glad that the officers seemed open to communication, and she is thinking about setting up a formal discussion to get to know them better.
“I think it’s maybe a good step to … foster more community between TUPD and the students because it seems like there’s a pretty big disconnect,” Chen said. “I think it’s definitely something that they need to work on.”
Chen hopes TUPD will work to foster a more comfortable relationship with students outside of coffee events.
“I imagine it’s much different than if you’re encountering the police in a situation of crisis,” Chen said. “So something like this might be helpful for getting to know students better, but it would be important for them to translate that kind of connection into when they’re actually called onto [the] scene.”