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Officers use a smile and a donut to try to bridge a gap in the Ole Miss community

By Lasherica Thorton

EAGLE contributor

As University Police Department Chief Ray Hawkins passed out donuts, coffee, tea and juice on Friday, ‘get your day started right’ was one of many chants.

The Student Activities Association (SAA) sponsors the event known as Coffee with a Cop, which was held for homecoming week but also happens several times throughout the school year to bridge a gap often dividing the University community.

Dugan Walker, the SAA co-director for homecoming and a junior public policy leadership and economics major, said bridging that gap is a goal of homecoming. He said the event provides an opportunity for students to interact with UPD and Oxford Police Department.

OPD usually is present at the event but were not Friday.

Even though students rushed to morning classes, Elizabeth Gunn, senior hospitality management major and Walker’s fellow SAA co-director for homecoming, said students could see the officers in a different light.

To Gunn, students could see the police in a more hospitable way rather than an intimidating one.

“I think anyone who can get you in trouble for something would make you feel a little bit intimidated,” she said.

Hawkins said there is a generalized stereotype that police aren’t approachable, but he considers the opportunity a way to reach out to students and let them know UPD is always accessible, not only when there is trouble.

“We’re human. We’re just people,” Hawkins said. “We want people to feel comfortable coming to us when they don’t have problems, to just bridge that gap and have open lines of communication.”

Whether it’s because of those stereotypes, the haste to class or the blazing sun, there was a lack of dialogue at Coffee with a Cop; several students grabbed their donuts and drinks and left.

Dialogue is a way to communicate, but there are different ways to do so, said Hawkins.

“Sometimes just a smiling face and a welcoming demeanor say more than words,” he said. “Just having somebody approach you with a smile and a donut – what a great way to get your day started.”