The fifth annual Blue Mocktail Town Hall (BMTH) took place at UWG on Feb. 25 inside of the Campus Center ballroom. During the event, local police officers and students got a chance to bond over dinner.
This event, which was organized by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), was meant to improve the strained relationship between students and officers. However, there is one key figure behind the scenes that has been instrumental in marking the massive improvement of student and officer relations. Dr. Yves- Rose Porcena has been at the forefront of this issue and is ready to tell her story.
As a chief diversity officer, Dr. Yves – Rose Porcena is very adept at handling sensitive issues. Two years ago, she recognized student and police relations at UWG were on the verge of reaching a boiling point. Along with the help of the county, university and city police, she helped UWG President Kyle Marrero launch the “protect our pact” operation. As a result of this, the BMTH was created through assisted funding. This operation ensures the local police and CDI work together to maintain well standing with the students at UWG.
“The main reason for doing this event was to really push the idea of community policing,” said Porcena. “We also wanted to provide the police officers with a forum so they can meet with our students and get to know them.”
Change takes time which is why the progress of the meeting is such an encouraging sign for the UWG community. Under Dr. Porcena’s supervision, it was evident that both sides were fully comfortable communicating serious topics with each other. Even more important, it appeared that students and police officers alike enjoyed each other’s company.
“They are starting to see them as fellow human beings and not only police officers,” said Dr. Porcena. “At the end of the event, students wanted to take pictures with the officers and post them on Instagram. And the police officers are starting to see the students as young people instead of something else. We always do a pre and post survey and we could see the trust that is being built.”
Although the Blue Mocktail Town Hall meeting went over smoothly, Dr. Porcena recalls when animosity took over the room in meetings only two years prior.
“Two years ago, students would come into my office and complain about the local police at least once a week,” said Porcena. “Now, although the students still are often stopped by police, they feel they are treated with respect. It comes down to basic things we learned in kindergarten, you know?”
Unsurprisingly, students have become aware of the importance of the meetings. As a result of Porcena’s efforts, each BMTH meeting draws a large audience.
“This meeting had 119 students swipe in with their student ID,” said Dr. Porcena. ”We also had 18 police officers there as well.”
Although this event is very influential Dr. Porcenas work extends outside into her daily life as well.
“This event is once a semester, but we meet with them once a month,” said Dr. Porcena. “I meet with the chief of police for both the university and the City of Carrollton, along with the county sheriff to govern crime statistics and strategy.”
Dr. Porcena’s efforts along with the creation of the BMTH cannot go unnoticed in relation to the progress of police and student relations. Look for Dr. Porcena and the BMTH to continue the everlasting push toward a safe environment for UWG at the next meeting in August.