UMSL Police appreciative of support that’s come from across university amid pandemic

by | May 26, 2020

People across campus have donated equipment, supplies and food to the department over the past two months while faculty, staff and students have been at home.
Marisa Smith

Deputy Police Chief Marisa Smith and the rest of the UMSL Police Department have been touched by the support they’ve received – in the form of donated supplies and food – from the campus community amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by August Jennewein)

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic upended normal life on the campus of the University of Missouri–St. Louis and left members of the UMSL Police Department feeling suddenly alone, with students completing their courses remotely and faculty and staff all instructed to work from home.

“When it came to supplies, we thought we were going to kind of have to fend for ourselves,” said Deputy Chief Marisa Smith, thinking back to those chaotic couple of days in mid-March.

Smith and her colleagues didn’t anticipate the outpouring of support they would receive from groups across the university in the weeks that followed.

A number of academic departments or support units, including the Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Nursing, Technology and Learning Center, the Office of Residential Life and Housing, the Office of Research Administration and Student Academic Support Services, donated cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment, including face masks, gloves, ear savers and protective coverings to be worn over clothing when contacted by someone infected with COVID-19.

Someone even made cloth masks. They could not be used on duty because of safety regulations, but they came in handy for officers making their way home from work.

Officers also arrived on campus for their shifts to find food – sandwiches, prepackaged snacks, desserts and bottled water – delivered for them to enjoy.

“It definitely makes you feel like you’re appreciated, and we’re very grateful,” Smith said. “I think people realized that the campus police were not able to leave. We would have to stay to make sure that our buildings were protected and that, if any crime occurred on campus, we were here.”

They’ve been following the guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to do everything possible to protect the health and safety of the officers. That includes social distancing, frequent hand washing and avoiding touching their eyes, ears and noses.

The officers have been visible driving around the mostly deserted campus, primarily serving as a deterrent for crime. Bike patrols have been covering the areas harder to see from the roadways.

“Our officers remain fully committed to providing quality service and protection during these unprecedented times,” Smith said.

They have made a few arrests of individuals unaffiliated with the university, but a lot of their work has been ensuring residents remaining on campus have 24-hour police service, keeping buildings secure and responding to calls from employees working remotely who need computers turned on in their offices.

In the past two weeks, the department has also served as a drop-off location for laptops that Information Technology Services distributed to students in need so they could be able to complete their semester coursework at home.

Smith, a proud UMSL graduate in her 17th year with the department, is looking forward to the day when people return to campus.

“We are very eager,” she said. “We miss our UMSL community – the students, faculty and staff – and the interactions that we have with them daily. We’ll be happy to see them come back.”

Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik

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