Many UW students live off campus and, because of this, the UW Police Department had already been working to create an off campus officer position; however, when the Madison Police Department announced it would be eliminating its Langdon community officer position, the UWPD decided they needed to act.
Marc Lovicott, the UW Police Department’s Director of Communications, says the new off-campus liaison will hopefully offer support for students in the downtown area.
“We’ve been looking for ways for quite a while to try and increase our communications and our interactions with this population,” said Lovicott.
“It’s confusing for people too, they live on Langdon Street or they frequent Langdon Street and they think ‘Well, I’m at a fraternity or I’m at a sorority, I’m on campus’ when technically no, you’re not, you’re off campus and that’s the city of Madison’s jurisdiction. But we still want to be a part of that person’s experience, so we’ve been looking for ways for a while to create a liaison type officer position,” he adds.
Lovicott says that although the Madison Police Department will still be in charge of investigating crimes and other incidents, the UW’s off-campus liaison officer will take a community policing approach.
“We’re trying to create a position that gives us greater visibility, greater engagement, offers resources in off campus areas- for presentations and for safety talks. And then also to further bolster our collaboration with MPD, cultivate that consistency in approach through lots of different initiatives. So it’s just getting out there and making sure students know we’re out there and that we’re a resource that they can rely on,” he says.
Some students and residents in the area are frustrated and concerned with Madison Police Department for eliminating the Langdon Street community officer position.
Officer Damion Figueroa previously held the position and worked to build a positive relationship with Langdon street residents over the past two years. According to Joel DeSpain, Public Information Officer for the Madison Police Department, Officer Figueroa not only responded to incidents, but helped residents take preventative measures.
“He did a lot in meeting with people and talking with them about how can they best prevent crime from taking place in their area. And certainly talking with them about patterns of crimes that we’re seeing and really relaying that information first head. I think he also was able to sort of ride heard if you will and have a good relationship with people in terms of keeping people, particularly maybe some in the greek system- from doing things that would get them in trouble,” Figueroa says.
“He’d draw the line and say look if you do this you’re going to end up in some trouble with the police or the university. And so let’s work together on this. But again I know from reading some media reports and some phone calls I’ve gotten here from people who live in that area that there’s just a lot of mutual respect and that’s what you look for in terms of doing good policing,” he adds.
However, DeSpain says the Madison Police Department no longer has the funding to support Officer Figueroa’s position.
“We don’t have enough patrol officers in the city right now, and we’ve gotten no more money from the city to hire more officers. So we’re actually eliminating twelve positions in the department and moving those people into patrol services. So we have community police team members that are being eliminated, members of our gang unit, our community outreach team, and two neighborhood officers: Arbor Hills and then Langdon Street,” DeSpain notes.
UW Madison Chief of Police Kristen Roman expects the new off campus liaison officer to start in late January.
The new off campus liaison officer will receive the same training from the police academy on issues surrounding sexual violence and racial profiling.