The Department of Public Safety met with the Association of Indian Students to discuss methods for improving student-officer relationships, on Monday.
The meeting, held at the USC University Religious Center, addressed students’ concerns at their annual international foods festival.
Erwin Valencia, the community relations officer for DPS, meets regularly with AIS and suggested that the organization should invite DPS to their foods festival this semester. Valencia, who is also the international student liaison for DPS, stressed the importance of strong relationships in the USC and overall L.A. community.
“The idea here is that the students can get to know us more,” Valencia said. “That way, in the future, if they need something or if they become victims of something, they know DPS officers are here for them.”
Valencia encouraged students to reach out to him via telephone and Facebook, about issues ranging from petty theft to landlord abuse.
“If they need something and they reach out, we want to look for a possible solution to the problem,” Valencia said.
Students also sought to discuss homelessness, theft and other prevalent issues affecting the USC community. According to Valencia, several student body associations have organized events with DPS aimed at improving student-officer relations, especially in light of the current presidential administration.
According to DPS Chief John Thomas, student citizenship status is not a concern among DPS or LAPD officers, and DPS is working to relieve this fear through similar community relations events. Thomas said LAPD has no authority to ask people for their immigration status, which has been a department policy since 1979. Thomas stressed DPS’ commitment to USC students and the community surrounding USC, especially expressing their willingness to help the international student population.
Thomas said that many international students are unaware of the help available to them at the University. Thomas continued to explain that citizens from certain countries such as India do not have close relationships with police, which often causes mistrust in the police system. However, he expressed his and DPS’ availability and readiness to all students.
“In America, the police work for the people,” said Thomas. “We’re an extension of the people, whereas in other countries the police are an extension of the state.”