Usually, when college and university students interact with law enforcement, it’s not for pizza. However, a recent effort by Georgia Southern University to bridge the gap involved local officers and students sharing a meal.
The casual setting event was an offshoot of the “Protect the Nest” initiative — a collaborative effort between GS University police, Statesboro police and the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office that was initiated by GS President Kyle Marrero, said GS Vice President of Communication John Lester.
“It was a coordination between Georgia Southern, students and police to ‘connect the dots.”
The “Protect the Nest” initiative includes monthly conference calls between GS administration, Marrero and law enforcement to “keep up with and discuss trends on ways to help each other keep students safe,” he said.
The “Protect the Nest” program has many facets, including the recent “meet and greet” where 150 university students met for pizza with deputies and officers.
“The event was fun,” said Statesboro Police Chief Mike Broadhead. “There was a pretty good turnout of officers and deputies as well as students.”
The event was coordinated by the GS Office of Student Affairs.
Lester said a law enforcement official was seated at each table to interact with and talk to the students, to give them a glance at the “human side” of the officers as well as allow those with badges to better understand university life.
Broadhead said after a while,, officers switched tables to give students a chance to meet those from different agencies. His officers responded positively to the event, he said. “We had some pretty good feedback.”
GS University Police Chief Laura McCullough was out of state and unable to be reached for comment Friday, but Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown said the monthly conversations with others is very helpful to community safety. He and representatives from the BCSO Criminal Investigations, jailers, deputies and Crime Suppression team members, attended the gathering with students.
“It was a question and answer (opportunity) and let the students know deputies and officers are humans, too,” he said. “It let them know we are approachable.”
Broadhead said he is impressed with Marrero’s active interest in student and community safety.
The “Protect the Nest” initiative is “basically sharing information” between law enforcement agencies and the GS President’s office. “I am glad Marrero wants to be in the loop. He is a hands-on kind of person” and has shown a genuine interest in improving student and community safety, he said.
The chance to speak with students and discuss ways to deal with issues, and encourage them to reach out to law enforcement, is also a positive aspect, Brown said.
Lester said the “Protect the Nest” effort is expected to continue and grow.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.