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Editorial: UC runs counter to student, faculty preferences with systemwide special police force

By Editorial Board

May 14, 2021 2:52 p.m.

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated in the last sentence that University of California Office of the President's policies were passed. In fact, the proposals have not been passed.

This post was updated May 27 at 5:42 p.m.

On the occasion that students and faculty ask for something that will cost less money and fewer injustices, the University of California should be inclined to oblige.

What it shouldn’t do is further militarize the already unnecessary police force on its campuses – a police force that has been proven to disproportionately target people of color.

But that’s exactly what it’s done.

The UC Office of the President recently proposed changes to the Universitywide Police Policies and Administrative Procedures, which included updates to the use of force policy, added new policies regarding body cameras for officers and crowd management teams and affirmed the rights of retired officers to carry concealed weapons in keeping with the statues of state and federal law.

In short, these proposals are the result of a university that is responding to calls for abolition with increased militarization of the police to the detriment of student and faculty safety.

The most concerning changes come in the form of the university’s new crowd management, or Systemwide Response Team, which has been likened to a form of UC national guard by prominent abolitionist groups such as the Divest/Invest UCLA Faculty Collective. According to the proposal, the SRT will be issued riot gear, arrest kits, chemical agents and kinetic energy projectiles. The team would be a UC-wide group of police officers exceeding the size of a police force on any single campus.

Following calls to defund or abolish police, the preeminent public learning institution in the country has decided to create a substantially larger, more weaponized police force with a chain of command made up entirely of police officers.

The mass militarization of policing on campus is unwarranted and outrageous under any circumstance. Contextualized by the data, it only becomes all the more so.

Just last month, the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies released research showing that less than 10% of police calls at UCLA involve force, violence or even threats of violence. And even if UCLA did have more calls involving violence or crime, data has shown that increased police presence is not correlated with decreased crime.

There have been numerous and growing calls for divestment from students and faculty. There have been studies upon studies showing that policing disproportionately harms people of color as well as other marginalized groups. There have been thousands of voices protesting police violence and systemic racism across the country, in Los Angeles and on the UC campuses.

And the UC, despite all of its supposed care for the community, has instead made a choice which will do even more harm.

The University knows by now that this policy is a repudiation of safety. The academics they hire and the students they hope to teach have been telling them this loud and clear for the past year.

In proposing these policies, UCOP makes it clear that it has chosen to stop listening – and students and faculty must bear the weight of that choice.

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