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USAC, campus officials to form committee addressing racial profiling

USAC President Devin Murphy is advocating for a new committee to address concerns about racial profiling within UCPD. (Austin Yu/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Erin Donnelly

Oct. 21, 2014 2:25 a.m.

The undergraduate student government’s Office of the President is working with campus officials to create an oversight committee to address concerns about racial profiling within the university police department.

Last week, Undergraduate Student Association Council President Devin Murphy met with the UCPD Chief of Police James Herren, UCLA Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Janina Montero and other officials about establishing a more concrete dialogue between students of color and police.

Murphy said the idea for the committee formed from conversations he had with some black students about tensions they felt with local police.

“When you don’t feel comfortable on campus, that is a campus climate issue,” Murphy said. “We want to be making sure that students have an outlet to provide feedback (to UCPD).”

The university police department currently holds internal, mandatory diversity sensitivity training for its officers, said UCPD spokeswoman Nancy Greenstein.

The department has also partnered with campus organizations to hold workshops with students to discuss issues such as racial profiling, although none were held in the past year, Greenstein added.

“We are open to the discussion,” Greenstein said. “We want to make an effort to help people bridge gaps and understand perspectives.”

The idea for the committee came as a response to concerns from several students of color who told Murphy that they felt singled out by police.

“Being randomly stopped and being questioned about whether I am a student doesn’t foster a sense of community,” said Alex Mercier, a fourth-year political science student who helped form the initial idea for the committee.

Some complaints came from a database formed in March by the Afrikan Student Union, of which Murphy is a member, for students to report instances of alleged racial profiling by the police. A handful of students responded about being pulled over by police officers and detained for what they believed was an excessive amount of time for minor infractions, said Kamilah Moore, a recent UCLA alumna and former chair of the group.

Last year, a black Los Angeles Superior Court judge accused the police department of racial profiling after police allegedly shoved him against a police car, handcuffed and put him in the back of the car for not wearing a seatbelt. The case was settled in July for $500,000.

Murphy said he plans to finalize a committee that includes administrators, students, staff and faculty in the next month.

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