Story by: Sara Diedrich
For years crime prevention officers with the University of Missouri Police Department have been meeting with members of sororities and fraternities associated with MU to talk about personal safety, excessive drinking and drug abuse.
But now MUPD officers are doing more than training and presenting educational programming for these students. MU police also are responsible for enforcing the law and responding to emergencies at Greek houses associated with MU.
For MUPD officers like Crime Prevention Officer James Young, the change isn’t a dramatic shift in responsibilities.
“It doesn’t feel that different because we already work closely with the Greek community,” Young said.
MU reached an agreement Aug. 5 with the City of Columbia that puts MUPD in charge of providing law enforcement services to all Greek houses affiliated with the university. The change expands MU polices’ longstanding relationship with the fraternity and sorority community and allows officers to patrol neighborhoods and enforce the law where Greek houses are located.
The agreement coincides with recommendations last year from a 40-member task force focused on improving student safety and enhancing the fraternity and sorority experience at Mizzou.
Agreements reached with the city on Aug.5 also made MUPD the primary responders for eight buildings at Campus Lodge, 2900 Old Highway 63 S., which are being leased this academic year by MU for the Residential Life program, and for five addresses in the heart of Greek Town, which include St. Thomas More Newman Center, 602 Turner Ave.; Children’s House Montessori, 915 and 917 Tiger Ave.; Richmond Place Apartments, 915 Richmond Ave.; and Evans Scholars, 923 Tiger Ave.
Chief Doug Schwandt of the university police department, said his officers already have a close working relationship with the fraternities and sororities, providing student members with information about personal safety, property security and educational programming and training.
“Residents of the Greek houses are 100 percent our students,” Schwandt said. “It makes sense that they would be a part of our jurisdiction, and we look forward to continuing our work with the Greek community.”
For years the Columbia Police Department has been responsible for policing the Greek houses that surround campus because the buildings are located on private property. MUPD assuming jurisdiction of the Greek houses is among several steps recommended by a task force formed last year to transform the university fraternity and sorority system.
“Safety is the No. 1 priority at the University of Missouri,” Vice Chancellor of Operations Gary Ward said. “This change will provide our students living in sororities and fraternities a consistent law enforcement presence, whether it’s through educational programming, training or enforcement.
“We hope that by offering a steady law enforcement presence — whether through educational programming, training or patrolling — our officers will help enhance the student experience for those living in fraternities and sororities,” he said.
Dean of Students Jeff Zeilenga said the agreement clarifies and strengthens the educational community policing model that is a hallmark of MUPD.
“MUPD officers already serve as community police liaisons for chapter houses and provide a variety of training on campus safety and policies to promote a positive and educational environment,” he said. “MUPD also works closely with multiple university departments that support student health and well-being. It makes sense that the officers who are policing Greek chapter houses are also the same individuals who are providing education and support to our students.”
The agreement approved last night goes into effect immediately.
Matt Eblen, a current MU student and president of Intrafraternity Council, said putting MU police in charge of law enforcement services to all Greek houses is a step towards building a stronger Greek community.
“This change has been something the IFC community has been working toward during the past year,” he said. “We are glad to see this progress which will allow MUPD and CPD to serve both the fraternity and sorority community and the greater Columbia community.”