Note: This story appears in the Sunday, Sept. 22 newspaper on Page A3.
Speakers pulsed with music at the top of Baker University Center on Wednesday evening while a line of hungry students shuffled toward a free dinner, courtesy of Kiser’s Barbeque. The food and entertainment were accompanied by a wide presence of police officers, though there was no disturbance in sight.
This event was the 5th annual BBQ on the Bricks, a celebration coordinated by the Joint Police Advisory Council (JPAC) that invites local law enforcement, Ohio University students and Athens residents to converse over a hearty meal.
“We like to give people the chance to ask us questions and get to know us on a more personal level,” said Ohio University Police Department Lt. Tim Ryan. “This is a great chance for that.”
Officers from the Athens Police Department and the OUPD first had the idea for a public barbecue a handful of years ago with the goal of facilitating interaction between police officers and civilians. The event has grown since then, thanks in part to the convenient location at the end of Court Street near the Baker Center.
“This spot is great because it’s very public and people walking through might get curious about what’s happening,” Ryan said.
In addition to interacting with officers, attendees were able to meet several Athens Police Department patrol horses and were invited to browse booths assembled by different university programs. Even those not stopping for a full meal were offered a complimentary ice cream treat.
Ohio University Student Senate President Lydia Ramlo enjoyed the casual nature of the event and said it helped break down barriers between the police and the public.
“It’s important to get the campus and public together to know each other’s spaces and not think of cops as scary or students as wild,” she said. “We’re all in this to make Athens a better place.”
Ramlo added that, due to her role on Student Senate, she knows the student representatives who have sat on the JPAC council and said their responsibilities are critical to keeping the public informed and connected to law enforcement.
The festivities allow the Athens Police Department and OUPD to collaborate on a community event, a central goal of JPAC. Lt. Ryan said that the annual barbecue is not the only opportunity to chat with officers, and there are other opportunities throughout the year — like Coffee with a Cop.
“A lot of times we set up in Front Room and you can come by and get free coffee,” he said, referencing the coffee shop inside Baker Center. “You can talk to the cops if you want to, or not. It’s just there to encourage that type of engagement. Sometimes we have mobile coffee with a cop where we go to residence halls and stuff.”