Five questions for an engaging officer

ISU Police officer Dwight Hinson

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Dwight Hinson, a four-time All-American wrestler for the Cyclones (1995-98), was one of three ISU Police officers to volunteer for the engagement and inclusion officer (EIO) initiative when it launched in 2015. The community-building outreach program now has seven officers -- all of them Iowa State alumni -- who provide presentations, training, resources and other services to improve the campus climate.

The basics

Name: Dwight Hinson
Position: Officer, ISU Police
Years at ISU: 18

What's the story behind ISU Police's engagement and inclusion officer initiative?

President [Steven] Leath wanted to combat the social climate and brought up the idea of having multicultural liaison officers for law enforcement. We thought it would be a good idea, and my name came up, along with two others.

Over the years, we've been developing this initiative and this whole program. We've been inundated with invites -- more than enough for three to handle. We're trying to spread this out so we have officers on each shift (night, afternoon and morning) that can cover those invites. It's a voluntary role, in addition to our other duties.

Our group meets about once a month, just to talk about schedules and what we're doing. We want to work as a team. We get a lot of invitations to forums, group discussions, activities and events. We want to be seen. We want to let the public know we're reaching out, but not just when we're pulling over cars or doing routine duties.

What are the challenges of the current social climate?

It's very much a challenge for us, but that's why we have the EIO initiative. We don't want kids to come to campus thinking it's not safe. True enough, we're not in a bubble. We don't have any gates that protect the campus. It's a public university, so people come and go. We want students to know that we're here for them, we're doing our best to protect them. The main thing is, don't be scared of us. If you see something, say something. Don't be that person that knew about something and didn't report it.

What has changed the most since you started?

Our department -- and its identity -- has changed a lot. When I first got hired, we weren't armed at all, but we still had to make traffic stops and perform our duties whether you had a gun or not. It's evolved a lot, from a public safety department to a police department. We are police officers, we go through the academy and we're certified like any other police officers. The biggest thing is seeing us as actual police; having the public buy in to who we are.

What's your favorite part of your job?

Engagement with the people. There are days when I decide to go through the MU on my lunch break, and I see the kids who we've done presentations for or attended functions with and we're able to build this camaraderie and discussion -- just being able to reach out to the kids who recognize what you're doing.

Do people recognize you? (Hinson was a four-time All-American wrestler at Iowa State)

Yeah. I'm short -- I fit the mold, I guess -- and then people start looking at the ears and say, "you used to wrestle, huh?" I play it off a little bit and tell them I did OK. Then they look at the name on the shirt and say, "oh, yeah!" The ears give it away, big time. The wrestler ears give it up.