Western Carolina University’s Police Department recently instituted a standing advisory committee to help officers better understand and serve the community.
On the heels of an initial meeting on Feb. 19, Chief Steve Lillard said the committee has already established an open dialogue and is ready to look at local issues.
“We have elected officers and started building a framework for committee action to begin,” Lillard said. “Police work is built on trust and accountability, and we have our own considerations within a university setting, but with the same dedication to public safety and crime prevention here as you would find in a small town or big city. Hearing from a group like this committee is an essential aspect of our mission. Communication and understanding pave the way for officers working to protect people, property and maintain order while assuring fair and equal treatment to everyone.”
The committee is made up of students, faculty and staff. The committee officers are Cyndy Caravelis (faculty) – chair; Tristan Benson (student) – co-chair; Christopher Perrine (student) – secretary.
“In all of my various roles, professor of criminology and criminal justice, domestic violence victim advocate, and community member, I understand both sides of the police/community relationship,” said Caravelis. “I see the fear and uncertainty that victims often feel when weighing whether or not to contact law enforcement. I also recognize that our law enforcement officers, who are often doing their best in a very difficult job, often feel misunderstood by the community members they are serving.
“We’re looking forward to increasing communication between WCUPD and the community so that all stakeholders feel heard and to make sure that our mission yields a positive impact on the community. Some of our goals include increasing programming for students, faculty, and staff in a number of different areas: victim advocacy, outreach with student organizations, and creating opportunities for positive interactions with our campus police department. We also want to make sure that WCUPD has an opportunity to engage with and solve problems on campus that may be under their radar.”