With her 26 years of community outreach experience in tow, new University of Wisconsin Police Department Chief Kristen Roman is confident she can build up police-community relationships.
Just a day away from her official induction as chief, Roman said she has been working with Associated Students of Madison to learn about UW students’ concerns.
“What I’m expecting to do is to strengthen all those relationships with our department and campus community,” Roman said.
In the last three weeks, Roman met with Dean of Students Lori Berquam and plans to hold dialogues with various student and administrator governance groups in February.
Aside from engaging with UW through these meetings, Roman said she was also “very glad” to talk with those whose voices tend to be underrepresented in informal forums and conversations.
Roman looks to bring her experience working with the Madison Police Department to her position as well. She joined MPD in 1990 and later became the Mental Health Liaison program coordinator, moving toward various other positions such as field training sergeant and community services sergeant.
Roman said working in these positions allowed her to interact with people from different ethnic, racial and social backgrounds. She said she hopes to bring what she learned from these experiences to UW’s diverse community.
“One of the challenges that all departments are facing across the country are trust issues with people in communities of color,” Roman said. “My focus is on students of color’s safety concerns.”
Addressing student accessibility to mental health care is another concern for Roman. She said college is a “particularly risky and challenging time” because of the stress that comes with it.
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Roman said she also wants to increase crisis intervention training for UWPD officers. These officers would then be required to follow up with students facing mental health issues.
Sexual assault is another priority for Roman, but she looks to approach it differently. Instead of focusing on women, Roman wants to focus on identifying and educating perpetrators.
“As a young female student, sexual assault was also my safety concern,” Roman said. “I even took self-defense courses.”
Proactive community engagement and specific response strategies to cases involving minority groups are two approaches Roman has planned to implement. She said it is important to take a more sensitive and considerate approach to addressing minorities’ needs.
Transparency in UWPD policies, approaches and trainings are also priorities for Roman.
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Under Roman, UWPD officers met with Madison criminal justice representatives including probation, jail and parole officers and local mental health service providers. This meeting has been taking place for more than 12 years but UWPD was never part of it until Roman became chief.
“All those factors are to build trust and to help people feel safe,” Roman said.