2020 Student Police Academy Features Unique Ride-Along
University Police Department Shares Expertise and On-the-Job Experience with Texas State Students
Dey Romo Rossell | November 2, 2020
Texas State University students joined the virtual Student Police Academy, soaking in as much information and looking forward to the final step—a four-hour ride-along.
“I had so much fun. My supposed to be four-hour ride along ended up turning into almost six hours,” said Cat Hoyt, a senior at Texas State.
For Hoyt, who is pursuing a criminal justice major and psychology minor, this program was the perfect experience to launch her career plans.
“I’ve planned my degree plan around wanting to join a PD force in the near future,” she said.
Sgt. Daniel Benitez, University Police Department Community Engagement Officer, said he looks forward to this exciting opportunity for students every semester. Even with social distancing measures, the UPD team created a safe way to successfully offer the program. UPD hosted the two-day, two-hour in-person portion virtually, followed by a ride-along that included a divider between the passenger and the driver, masks for participants and officers, and windows partially opened for circulation.
“The Student Police Academy is very rewarding for our UPD team as we are inspired by the next generation of law enforcement professionals. Any part we can play in preparing them and encouraging them along their path is very important to us,” Benitez said.
Thirty-three students are participating in the program with six officers facilitating the ride-alongs. Ten students have completed the ride-along which is the final step in earning their Student Police Academy certificate. Stepping into the police car, students experience firsthand the unexpected and routine duties of a UPD officer at Texas State. For some, just meeting a UPD officer is a brand-new experience.
“I didn’t really have a perception of UPD before the ride along due to not meeting a UPD officer up until that day. For the most part it was what I expected. I was super surprised and excited that I was welcomed in as well as I was,” said Hoyt.
Unlike Hoyt, Ben Nehama came in with his own ideas of how UPD would operate.
“My perception of UPD before the academy was that they operated like any other police department, but I was wrong,” he said.
Nehama is a freshman at Texas State majoring in criminal justice and plans to pursue a career in law enforcement. The experience was truly eye-opening for him.
“With this being a campus police department, it takes a special type of police officer to work here; one that is a people person and excels in community policing meaning this is a department that no ordinary officer can work at. The officers on this campus are amazing when it comes to communicating with the students and overall are some of the friendliest officers that I have encountered,” Nehama said.
His ride-along buddy at the department was Patrol Officer Lloyd McKinney whose daily routine includes constant interaction with the university community focused on building relationships with students, faculty, and staff to maximize the effectiveness of UPD services and foster safety. He also offers 16 years of experience at Texas State.
“I am able to share both my expertise as a peace officer and the benefits of working in a higher education learning environment. Those benefits include access to staff and faculty members; and, learning from, mentoring, and encouraging our Bobcat students,” said McKinney.
Chief Laurie Espinoza Clouse recognizes that many students at the university are not familiar with the department and its role on the campus. She highly recommends that students sign up for these opportunities to truly get an understanding of UPD.
“Texas State UPD is made up of an amazing team of officers who are committed to protecting students, faculty and staff. By taking part in the Student Police Academy, participants will see this dedication and they will get a glimpse into the compassion and kindness that sets our officers apart at Texas State,” said Clouse.
The ride-alongs will continue through the conclusion of the fall semester. Students are encouraged to watch the UPD at TXST events page for opportunities to participate in future academies.