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Community policing brings full-time officer to campus
Minnesota State Mankato is Stephanie Wilkins' beat
Minnesota State Mankato is Stephanie Wilkins' beat.
Dan Nienaber, Mankato Free Press, 7-26-2015
MANKATO — Stephanie Wilkins will be one of many new faces walking the Minnesota State University, Mankato campus this fall, but her clothing will help her stand out from the crowd.
She won't be wearing wrinkled pajamas, a toga or one of those skin-tight, bright-colored body socks that have grabbed the attention of fans at Maverick sporting events. She'll be dressed in crisp blue, in an official Mankato Department of Public Safety police uniform with a badge, name tag and sidearm.
Wilkins said she wants to stand out so students and faculty get to know her quickly. The campus is her new beat and she wants to get to know as many people as possible because that will help her define her department's newest community policing position.
“When this position came about, I was very excited about it,” Wilkins said. “I'm from Mankato and I graduated from Minnesota State Mankato, and I think I relate well to college students.”
Wilkins is an experienced officer who joined the police force in 2012. She graduated from Mankato East in 2005, Minnesota State Mankato in 2012 and worked a couple of years at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter before being hired by the Mankato Police Department.
Her connections in Mankato and past duty experience made her a good fit for the new position, said Todd Miller, director of Public Safety.
“The new role has not been defined,” Miller said. “So we hired someone with the ability to problem solve and create. She will be asked to identify the needs of the campus community.”
Wilkins has been working the new beat for about a week already, patrolling on campus and walking through buildings to introduce herself to faculty and other staff. Once classes start in late August, she will be giving public safety presentations in classes, participating in student activities at apartment complexes near campus, working athletic and entertainment events, and spending a lot of time on and around campus during the first few weekends of the semester.
She will be working closely with Minnesota State Mankato security staff and two police officers already working in the campus area, existing neighborhood officer Sean McClinton and Cmdr. Matt DuRose.
In many ways the position will be similar to the police liaison officer position funded by Mankato Area Public Schools at a cost to the district of about $95,000 per school year. The Minnesota State Mankato position is fully funded by the city, but Miller said one goal is for the university to see the value of having a licensed police officer on campus. Ideally, Miller wants the university to pay for two more police positions.
Three officers have been hired to work on the St. Cloud State University campus at a cost of about $280,000 per year to the university, Miller said. With one position already funded by the city, Minnesota State Mankato could budget less than $200,000 to cover the cost of additional officers.
City and police officials plan to meet regularly with campus leaders to assess the job Wilkins is doing.
David Jones, Minnesota State Mankato vice president of student affairs and enrollment management, said the university is happy to have a licensed police officer dedicated to the campus. The Police Department has a response plan in place for emergencies on campus that has worked well, but having Wilkins available will help.
“It will be nice to know we have someone who is familiar with the campus,” Jones said. “We like the spirit and thought behind having a neighborhood police officer, someone we can approach with questions.”
The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also has stories online at mankatofreepress.com.