Mankato officers came to MSU to answer questions from diverse student leaders

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion presented, “Diverse Students Meeting with Greater Mankato Public Safety,” on Wednesday to have a Q&A-based discussion with Minnesota State University, Mankato Student leaders. 

During the event officers from the Mankato Public Safety Center, St Peter area, and Blue Earth County sat with MSU students where they were encouraged to ask any questions to the officers regarding the law of what to do in certain situations.

Topics discussed ranged from tips on how to interact with police safely, to how officers cope with a fairly high stress job.

Amy Vokal, director of Mankato’s Public Safety Center, voiced what people always ask her in regards to what she looks for in a good officer. 

“The number one thing is empathy, and seeing the world through someone else’s eyes and understanding we don’t all see the same. That is why these events are so crucial because this is where you develop relationships and share backgrounds and hear other people’s concerns,” Vokal said. “The relationship building is the most important thing, training gives us the foundation but what matters is putting it into action.”

One of the questions asked was how officers deal with the negative stigma or stereotype against them. 

“What we look for is opportunities to talk about it. I do think that we have to watch out for an ‘us versus them’ mentality. If you think that everyone is against law enforcement, and get in that mentality, it builds a bigger wall up. We try to make sure our staff are getting educational opportunities and awareness so we don’t feed into that mentality,” Ross Gullickson, North Mankato Police Chief, said.

Kornelius Klah, graduate assistant and track athlete at MSU, shared what he got out of the event.

“This was a great opportunity to ask my questions and I really liked that one-on-one time being able to speak with the officer,” Klah said. “But I definitely wanted to hear more personal statements from the officers.”

After the Q&A session MSU Student Government President Reauna Stiff and Vice President Kara Svercl proposed a mobile app that will assist users during routine traffic stops.

The app TurnSignl allows users to connect virtually with an attorney in real time during stops with law enforcement. This app aims to protect driver’s rights, ensure police and drivers’ safety, and de-escalate roadside situations. If implemented, this app is intended to be free for all MSU students to use and will be available 24/7.

Currently, Mankato officers undergo numerous training courses, one of them regarding how to deal with those with mental disabilities and crisis training. 

In addition, officers also are required to undergo an employee wellness program that has them talk to a therapist and are allowed up to six follow up visits covered by the city.

Header Photo: North Mankato Police Chief Ross Gullickson speaks with MSU an student at the event in the CSU. (Mansoor Ahmad/The Reporter)

Write to Julia Barton at Julia.Barton@mnsu.edu

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