Interns share their experiences working for UT Austin’s police department

Tehreem Shahab

Molly Smidovec said when she started her internship at the University of Texas Police Department in the fall of 2016, she was not sure what to expect. 

“I don’t come from a background in law enforcement so I was really intimidated at first,” said Smidovec, human development and family sciences sophomore. “But getting here, I feel like I have gained a second family, basically.”

Smidovec, along with four other UTPD interns, is assigned to work in either the records department, community outreach department or the lost and found. The interns are also provided with other opportunities, such as volunteering at football games with UTPD officers.

Melissa Moore, UTPD’s student development and engagement coordinator, said the internships are meant to provide students with skills they can use outside of the 40 Acres.

“My biggest goal is giving them opportunities to build their resume,” Moore said. “So just different skills to add to their resume that would be beneficial to them once they leave here to look for work and leadership opportunities.”

Moore said the current interns applied through the University Leadership Network, an incentive-based scholarship program, but can also apply directly through UTPD. Although the internships are unpaid, Moore said the selected students who applied through ULN receive some scholarship money.

Advertising sophomore Abel Holguin said his communication skills have improved during his time interning for UTPD.

“Recently I have been working on getting the contact information of businesses on Guadalupe, so it’s easier to contact them in case anything happens,” Holguin said. “I’ve been calling them and I have been getting better at it … when I first started I was kind of rusty.”

Moore said interns don’t have to meet strict skill or GPA requirements to be hired. 

“(Interns) just have to have a clean record in order to work here since they are being exposed to some confidential information,” Moore said. “When we look at their resumes we aren’t looking for anything in particular. We do look for some volunteer work they may have done or some leadership opportunities they have had in the past.” 

Moore also said one of UTPD’s goals was to use student interns to bridge the gap between the University’s student body and its police department. 

“We wanted to work on changing some perception of law enforcement,” Moore said. “We want it to be a two-way street where we can implement different trainings for the officers and understand how different student groups may view police … so when our officers approach a different student group they’re aware of concerns (those groups) may have.” 

Smidovec, who works in the community outreach department, said she recognizes the efforts being made to increase communication between students and police, but knows it will be difficult to do so.

“I’ll talk about my position and people are like ‘Oh good for you, you have an internship, but I hate the police (at UT),’ so I think bridging that gap is going to be really hard,” Smidovec said. “But we’re actually trying to reach out to other colleges and see programs that they are doing and things like that to reach out to the whole community.”