Students learn about law enforcement at Cop Day

Natalie Sullivan

Wednesday, as part of Cop Day on Speedway plaza, students climbed into a SWAT vehicle, practiced their Taser skills and learned about fingerprinting. 

As a part of UT’s Safety Week, UTPD, the Division of Recreational Sports and Student Government hosted Cop Day. The event brings law enforcement agencies from Central Texas together to help students get to know law enforcement and learn what they do on a day-to-day basis. 

“Our goal is to allow students to come out and interact with the officers and … get to know them a little bit so they understand we’re not just out there to get them — we’re actually here to help the community and be a part of the community,” said William Pieper, UTPD Crime Prevention specialist and author of Campus Watch.

Students had the chance to view equipment from UTPD’s Criminal Investigation Unit and see a Taser demonstration put on by UTPD officers. While using training Tasers, students fired at a cardboard target of a suspect and tried to hit certain body regions. Detective Michael Riojas said the Tasers work best in close range when officers have a wider area of a suspect’s body to aim at. 

“On the inside, there’s some probes, and it’s like a little, tiny harpoon to catch onto the body or the clothing,” Riojas said. “If some people aren’t affected by it, it means you didn’t get a good spread on it, and it didn’t stick onto the clothing.” 

Deputies from the Travis County SWAT response team also attended the event and explained their job to students. Deputy Joseph Zahn said the SWAT vehicle, which carries 10 to 14 officers and goes on 60 to 80 operations per year, is used in search warrants, barricades and other high-risk situations. 

“It pretty much goes out for everything, unless it’s too big of a vehicle to get out in certain areas,” Zahn said. 

Undeclared sophomore Anggie Atocha said seeing the SWAT truck allowed her to learn about something she would not normally experience.

“It’s something that you only see on TV, but when you see it for real, and all the equipment that they have, and what they do, it’s pretty cool,” Atocha said. 

Kinesiology graduate student Donald Robinson said he was surprised by how relaxed and open the officers were compared to his previous experiences around police. 

“At my old school, I worked as an RA, and … calling the police there, I always just felt kind of edgy and uncomfortable, but here, people seemed a little bit more friendly than I would expect,” Robinson said. 

Atocha said the event made her more aware of what UTPD and other law enforcement agencies do on campus. 

“I think it’s a good thing to see the security on campus, even though you don’t see them all the time,” Atocha said. “It’s nice to know that they’re watching out for students.”