During a meeting this summer, the Collegedale Police Department’s Round Table Advisory Committee granted Southern a permanent seat on its board, according to Dennis Negrón, vice president for Student Development. This occurred after Negrón, who joined the committee near the end of last year, made a motion.
“I said to them, ‘We are one of the largest stakeholders for the Collegedale police,’” Negrón stated in an interview. “I said, ‘We, the university, arguably have the largest footprint in Collegedale. So it stands to reason then, that in this sort of meeting, we have a permanent voice.’”
The university’s new permanent position means there will always be a Southern representative on the committee, even if Negrón leaves.
The committee, “a first of its kind for the agency,” was created by the police department in August 2021, according to a July 25 news release.
“The round table has been described as a ‘think tank’ of individuals with a mission to discuss department and community issues while using an open group-based decision model,” wrote Assistant Chief of Police Jamie Heath in an email to the Accent.
Negrón said the board meets on the last Thursday of each month. It currently consists of nine people: one chairperson, five police officers, one city commissioner, one member from Southern’s administration and one community member, according to Heath. “A member from SAU was requested because there had not been a relationship between the university and the police department for many years,” Heath wrote. “The invitation was extended in the hopes that with the school’s new president we could work together to correct that error. President Shaw accepted and appointed Dr. Negrón.”
An August 2 news release announced the addition of Kenya Ervin, an employee of a local charity organization, as this third non-law enforcement board member. According to Heath, Mayor Katie Lamb is the current sitting commissioner, and the chairperson is the agency’s accreditation manager, which is presently Heath.
Heath added that all members are given year-long terms, and elections are staggered so the entire board isn’t replaced at the same time. According to Negrón, his primary tenure ended in August, but he was asked to remain on the board for another year.
Negrón described the board meetings as mostly mundane because the members usually discuss police policy and behavior, such as proper procedures to be taken in police chases. In one meeting, however, Negrón said “a lightbulb came up” in his head when the group began discussing community service hours required for officers. He suggested the university and police department could help one another by getting officers involved in Southern’s Freshman Service Day.
The board agreed, and an entire night shift patrol team and the police department’s administrative staff participated in the service event on August 18, according to Heath.
“We were immediately made to feel welcome by students and faculty alike,” Heath wrote. “The Collegedale Police Department looks forward to future community service days and other opportunities to live our agency’s motto of ‘Service Before Self.’”
Eliana Hounslow, freshman physical therapy assistant major, worked alongside the officers packing bags for community food distribution.
“It kind of started out a bit awkward at first,” Hounslow said. “… We were like, ‘Oh my gosh, these cops could like pull us over.’ But [after a while] we formed this really nice process. … And it worked out really nicely. ”
Negrón said one of his goals as the representative of Southern is to build the relationship between the university and police force.
“We have to work closely with them,” he explained. “A week does not go by when they’re [not] on campus for something; they patrol. We now use them on Sabbaths during the Collegedale church. When we do the SonRise pageant, multiple members of the police force are here on campus. … We may as well have a good relationship with them.”
Negrón said if students have suggestions or concerns regarding Collegedale Police Department, they should reach out to him.
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