After receiving a citation for operating a vehicle while intoxicated, Marquette University Police Department Chief Paul Mascari has been placed on administrative leave by the university. MUPD Captain Jeff Kranz has been named the interim police chief in Mascari’s absence.
This change in MUPD leadership provides the Marquette community an opportunity to evaluate both the former and the acting chief, and to reassess its expectations of the police department as a whole.
While law enforcement exists to maintain the expectations of law, communities should be able to have expectations of the department as well.
Pleas for transparency in policing have erupted across America. The resounding message is that nobody is above the law. As an institution, policing should be accessible, and agents of that institution need to be held accountable.
During his time as Marquette University Police Chief, Mascari was difficult to reach for comment, and often could not even arrange for brief phone calls with student reporters.
This inaccessibility, compounded with the national attention on instances of corruption and brutality in law enforcement, has created a disconnect between students and the campus police department.
Mascari was not a bad police chief. He is not being accused of corruption or misconduct. Our only charge is that he lacked a connection with the campus.
Navigating a contentious environment is a difficult task, and there are arguably few relationships more contentious than those between law enforcement and the communities they police. But the difficulty of a doable task should not be a deterrent to accomplishing it.
More than the necessity for accessibility, engaging with the community helps the police department.
Establishing relationships with students, faculty and the surrounding community allows MUPD to reinforce the values it aims to maintain through policing. Not to mention engagement is already a tenet of MUPD’s mission.
A change in leadership offers MUPD with a chance to rebrand and establish itself as an agent for the community. Students will be more apt to trust law enforcement if they can recognize them.
Given the national focus on police, it makes sense that people are often skeptical of officers. This is why now more than ever it is crucial to build legitimacy and trust between community members and the police force.
Increasing MUPD’s visibility on campus could help to abate some of the social tension between the police department and students.
Captain Kranz has always made himself available to student reporters and engages with the campus outside of student media as well. Coffee With A Cop, an event that lets students and community members ask questions and converse with MUPD officers, is an example of this.
Moving forward, MUPD should make a concerted effort to interact with the community it’s charged with serving and Kranz could be just the right person for the job.