UAPD Officer of the Year Rodney Lucio has a permanent beat at Presidential Village, where he can be found – among other things — mediating conflicts, deterring underage drinking and even passing out popsicles on a hot day.
In community-oriented policing, an officer, or COP, is assigned to an area not only to enforce the law, but to proactively work with the community to solve problems, form relationships and meet needs. Lucio’s community encompasses the students, the staff and sometimes even the families of those who live and work at the residence hall. But it’s not all dispensing popsicles and advice.
In nominating him for the award COP Unit Commander Lt. Daniel Pate praised Lucio’s work ethic, tact and caring, qualities that were on display in September when Lucio, responding to concerns from roommates, conducted a welfare check on a student. Lucio coordinated with UA Housing to gain access to the student’s bedroom, only to discover that the student had taken his own life.
Prior to joining UAPD, Lucio was a deputy for 11 years in Montgomery. Calls involving deaths are not new to him. But, while he did not personally know the student, the event affected him. “If I had known him, maybe I could have helped him. I’ve seen several deaths, but it’s different when it’s someone so young who just couldn’t see they had other options.”
The next day Lucio helped the parents sort through and load their child’s belongings. He was there to help the housing director clear the room, and assisted the roommates in moving out of the suite. He continues to check on the roommates.
He was surprised to hear about the Officer of the Year Award, and that his actions were part of the nomination letter. “I don’t feel like I did anything extraordinary. I did what I was supposed to do.”
When asked what he liked most about being a COP, the father of three said it was interacting with students. “I can imagine my children being here one day, being the age of these students. If we have positive interactions with this generation, who will one day be our country’s leaders, it can change the way they see and relate to the police for the better.”
But today, there are roommate conflicts to help settle, and what Lucio called “typical college antics” to deal with. He spends a lot of time walking the halls, but he also opens his office to students who need a quiet place to study, or who just want to hang out for a while. He listens, he counsels, he mediates. He even cooks.
Before the Thanksgiving holiday break, Lucio realized that some students were not able to go home for the holiday. He bought food with his own money, and he and his wife spent their holiday preparing and serving a complete Thanksgiving meal to the students.
Currently there are also COP offices in Tutwiler Hall, Mary Burke West, Paty Hall, Ridgecrest South, Lakeside West, Riverside North and Bryant Hall. What would Lucio most like students to know about COPs? “We are here to serve them. No issue is too small to bring up; it doesn’t have to be a police problem for me to help them.”
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