Public Safety

What they're thinking: Building bonds through sports

UI public safety leader and officers meet students on the field

Katherine Spellman (55) of The Friendly shakes hands with Scott Bekcner of the UI Five-O's following a co-ed intermural
Katherine Spellman (55) of The Friendly shakes hands with Scott Bekcner of the UI Five-O’s following a co-ed intermural basketball game at the University of Iowa Field House in Iowa City on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017. The UI Five-O’s intermural team is made up of University of Iowa Police Department officers and campus security employees. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — When Scott Beckner took the reins last year as the University of Iowa’s public safety director, he identified connecting with the student body as one of his priorities.

One of the means to that end was building relationships with students on the athletic field or court by forming teams of officers to take on students in intramural sports. With a semester of athletic endeavors under the department’s belt, Beckner weighs in on the first semester of participation in intramural sports.

On the sports the UI Department of Public Safety officers and staff have participated in:

“We played in volleyball, flag football, softball, bowling. (Last week), we had our first basketball game ... a couple of bad calls by the refs or we would have won that game.” (They lost, 53-18).

On what sports Beckner has participated in:

“I’ve participated in volleyball, basketball, dodgeball. They always want to hit you first ... I played in bowling. I try to participate in all of them.”

On what he hopes to achieve through the intramural participation:

“The No. 1 thing we’re trying to do is build up trust with the students. The students are really comfortable in intramurals and we’re not. We’re just not as comfortable in their surroundings. They really like to beat us, too. We get their best game. ... I enjoy it, personally. I always get something out of it. I think they see the director of public safety taking time, it shows we’re committed to making their place safe. Also, it’s a vehicle for them to make comments to us about how they feel and what we can be doing better. ... There will always be a barrier, but I want to make it as thin as I can. If we put ourselves where the students are comfortable, they’re going to open up more to us and that will bring down the barriers.”

On the students’ reactions to playing against the police:

“They know beforehand they’re going up against the police. I think they circle it on their schedule. We razz them a little bit. They razz us a little bit. We haven’t had any negative experiences this whole year. ... We take this as an opportunity to show them we’re on their side.”

On the officers’ reactions to playing in intramurals:

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“The ones that participate, they’ve actually enjoyed it. I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from the officers, actually. ... I give them the opportunity to pick out what they like, what they’re passionate about. I personally enjoy intramurals. That’s what keeps me going. We’re always looking at ideas. I told the officers, you tell me what you want to do.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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