SOUTHEASTERN UPD HAS FOUND A NEW WAY TO ENGAGE THE COMMUNITY AND MEET STUDENTS WHERE THEY ARE—AND IT’S GOING VIRAL.
Community policing is a challenge for every police department across the United States. This is no different for campus police departments. They deal with the same challenges as every police department in the country when trying to connect to the community. Southeastern, through the work of one dedicated individual, has found itself at the forefront of community policing in the digital age.
Officer Madison “Madi” Morse had an idea back in March of 2020. With the University shutting down because of COVID-19, the University Police Department (UPD) was presented with a challenge. How were they going to stay connected to a community that was experiencing a shutdown like never before? One Word: TikTok.
TikTok is a short-form video platform that allows users to upload videos of any subject imaginable. The user can then edit the video, put music to it, and add effects and stickers. Creativity is the limitation of the platform. TikTok has over 800 million users as of January 2021, 41 percent of whom are between the ages of 18 and 25.
With those demographics in mind, Officer Madi saw that TikTok was the perfect platform to reach students while they were working from home. The options were limitless in ways she could connect with students. From dancing in Friendship Circle to offering a 60-second tour of campus and everything in between, Officer Madi started to build up the platform as a great tool for UPD. Students loved to see the places they knew around campus and what Officer Madi was going to do next. Then a fellow officer dared Officer Madi to put a traffic cone on her head for a video.
Big, small, and every color you could imagine. Officer Madi had a cone for every situation. Through quick wit and some creative replies, Officer Madi became known as the “Cone Cop.” She is a viral sensation with some of her videos seen as many as five million times.
Officer Madi put Southeastern and UPD on the map in the law enforcement world when it comes to community policing. Departments from across the country have been reaching out to UPD to find out how it reached 170,000 followers.
Chief Michael Beckner believes that this sort of interaction is crucial when it comes to developing a rapport with the people you police. It “humanizes the badge” and shows that police officers are just men and women doing a job and trying to keep the public safe. Southeastern UPD also has the “Blue and You” initiative, which is a program that encourages a partnership between campus police and the Southeastern community. Campus officers encourage interactions with students by patrolling high pedestrian areas and conducting events such as handing out water the first week of classes.
As the University has opened back up, Officer Madi has used her new platform to expand awareness of the goings-on at the UPD by producing videos on safety classes, campus events, and community awareness. For her efforts Officer Madi was recently named Southeastern Police Department Officer of the Year.
So whether it’s online or on campus, take a moment to congratulate our very own “TikTok Cop,” Officer Madi Morse. You can also follow Officer Madi and the Southeastern UPD on TikTok via @SoutheasternUPD.
By Allen Cutrer