By Amelia Heup
The Student Law Enforcement Association at UWSP has been a cornerstone of the Stevens Point community and has created a branch of communication between local law enforcement and the eighty plus student members who have committed or are already involved in law enforcement. However, students noticed that a poster promoting an upcoming event on campus, “Coffee with Cops,” has been torn down multiple times.
In the student involvement page for UWSP, the goals for SLEA are to “provide its members the opportunity to learn practical law enforcement techniques through extended training, guest speakers and other opportunities.” It is also a fundamental part in preparing students with the training and knowledge necessary to go into various forms of law enforcement such as being a recruit, preparing to become a warden and educating on the hiring process.
Beginning last week, the organization began to promote an event titled “Coffee With Cops” which is to be held on Tuesday, December 11th in the Dryfus University Center concourse. The event beginning at 10am is described as a chance for students to “stop by the tables in the DUC for FREE coffee, hot chocolate, cookies and other snacks and meet some of our local law enforcement.” This event was also sponsored by the Student Government Association of UWSP.
On Thursday December 6th, the outgoing president of the Student Law Enforcement Association (SLEA), Bobby Uttecht noticed that a poster that was put up by him and another member had been ripped down and was lying on the floor adjacent to the board it was previously hanging on. In a Facebook post following the incident. Uttecht expressed his discontent for the actions against his organization’s promotion saying “They [UWSP students] preach tolerance, acceptance, free speech and everything else but apparently giving out free coffee and doughnuts doesn’t fall into something acceptable for some of these ‘young professionals’ rhetoric” further “whatever happened to having respect and morals in today’s world”. Following the weekend on Monday, December 10 Uttecht and another member, noticed once again that the poster that was once replaced was torn down and crumpled on the floor this time and other posters that were posted on public bulletin boards were missing as well. Uttecht unfolded the vandalized poster and reposted it with a note stating “Got a problem? Come talk about it” with a SLEA sticker attached. The members of the organization replaced the posters that were taken down.
When asked about where the problem stems from, Zachary Nelson, the incoming vice-president stated, “When certain people see a poster on campus with the word ‘police’ or ‘cops’ on it, they immediately develop a negative view towards it.” Further stating “Our event is designed to strengthen public relations between law enforcement and the student body at UWSP. If people have a problem with law enforcement, then I would encourage them to come to our event.”
This is not the first time that UWSP has experienced a problem with vandalizing posters on campus. During the previous spring semester, the UWSP College Republicans hung posters on the same bulletin boards to promote an event with NRAU, an educational event focusing on firearm safety and the history of gun control, hosted by the NRA on campuses across the country. Little administratively was done to curtail such problem. Uttecht acknowledges the problem in his Facebook post stating “Sad to say this isn’t the first-time posters have been ripped down on campus. Last time, they were in regard to the NRA.” In both cases, the issue of free speech on a public university campus has been called into question. Nelson explains, “the vast majority of the population supports law enforcement, which is awesome. But we do not hear much from that group of people. The people we hear from most are people who dislike people. Those are the people who are outspoken about it and make it known.”
The Student Government Association expressed regret for the action that was taken against them in a co-sponsored event. This is the first time that the Student Law Enforcement Association has come under this type of scrutiny as it primarily deals with events and functions with the community, rather than spending much time on the university campus. Uttecht states “the young professionals in my organization are truly some of the greatest individuals I have ever met. This is just down right discouraging for individuals on this career trek.” Nelson also added “our group is a group of students who want to do good for our communities. Showing hatred toward police in the UWSP campus does not have any positive effect on students working toward their goal of becoming law enforcement officers.”