Stories produced by students in the Meek School of Journalism & New Media
As Ole Miss searches for a new university police chief, some hope that things will stay the same.
Ray Hawkins, a University Police Department (UPD) officer, has been on the force for 24 years, 19 of those at Ole Miss.
He believes that while basic law enforcement training is important, additional training is crucial to be a UPD officer.
“We really focus on working in a college environment,” said Hawkins. “Community policing is a really big part of what we do. Relationship building. We like our officers to be able to get out of the car and mingle with the public.”
Lea Fuller, a freshman at Ole Miss, says she is grateful for the protection UPD provides.
“When I first came to campus, my parents were worried about my safety,” said Fuller. “Having this police force here really eases their fears, as well as mine.”
“Knowing if I had to walk to my dorm from the library in the middle of the night, I’ll have someone to walk with me is wonderful,” she continued.
Nathan Robinson, a sophomore at Ole Miss, agrees with Fuller.
“We’re college students, so of course a ticket from a UPD officer will sometimes be annoying,” Robinson admits.
“Honestly though, I’m glad to have them here. I think they make more of a difference than they even know, and the crime rate would be significantly higher without them.”
According to the university’s most recent crime data, burglaries and motor vehicle theft crimes are lower than in recent years, and though crime rate is important, Hawkins believes his job is about much more than that.
“It’s the safety issue,” he says. “Even in the absence of crime, you still want to feel safe. That is what we do, we make you feel safe.
“Our officers are trained to respond to the needs of this particular community,” said Hawkins.
According to University Primetime, the University of Mississippi ranks 17 on the list of safest colleges in America.
Both Hawkins and Fuller say they aren’t surprised by the ranking.
“I’m proud to go to a university that promotes safety for students,” said Fuller. “It shows how important student safety is to the administration. You don’t find that everywhere.”
Hawkins believes that the officers who stay on campus are the ones who love their job.
“The officers that you see here want to be here and do service to this community. Seeing the impact we make on young people, that’s what makes me stay. It’s very rewarding.”