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Op-ed: UCLA administration must heed data supporting abolishing of UCPD

One year after the killing of George Floyd, the Divest/Invest UCLA Faculty Collective renews its calls for university administrators to abolish UCPD. (Courtesy of the Divest/Invest UCLA Faculty Collective)

By Divest/Invest UCLA Faculty Collective

May 25, 2021 5:39 p.m.

An open letter to UCLA administration and professor Tyrone Howard and Rasha Gerges Shields, co-chairs of UCLA public safety commission:

Tuesday marks the first anniversary of the killing of George Floyd by police. The sustained uprising for abolition continues across the country, including at our universities. Yet, the UCLA administration is woefully out of step with the imperative for divestment/investment. Despite strongly worded opposition by us, the undergraduate student government, the UCLA Academic Senate and the systemwide Academic Council to the proposed Gold Book revisions, you have remained silent on, and therefore complicit in, the expansion and further militarization of campus police. Despite the inspiring USAC resolution, passed unanimously May 11 to abolish UCPD, you have failed to make a commitment to divestment. As Abolition May – from the May 3 day of refusal to the May 21 day of action – has demonstrated, faculty and students will continue to organize for Cops Off Campus and will hold you responsible and accountable for your complicity with the apparatus of policing.

One of the key questions that you have failed to ask or answer is what the UCPD actually does. As scholars with expertise in these matters, it is a question that we have cared to ask and answer. Rigorous research by Divest/Invest faculty and the No UCPD student coalition, summarized in two recently released research reports, provides analysis of UCPD activities. The research highlights deep racial disparities in rates of arrest by UCPD, and it demonstrates that most UCPD activity is not associated with any criminal law response and that an increasing proportion of UCPD activity, including arrests, is taking place off campus. In short, under the guise of campus safety, UCLA is policing Westwood and targeting Black and Latinx people in such extra-territorial policing.

Mapping Yesterday’s Police Activity at UCLA is based on data gathered from logs of UCPD activity required by the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act of 1990, which tracks all police activity, not just those that lead to arrests. The authors analyzed and mapped data for 2014 and 2019. Produced under the auspices of the Divest/Invest UCLA Faculty Collective, the report was released jointly by the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy. Its findings include:

  • UCPD polices Los Angeles beyond UCLA’s campus. One-third of UCPD-reported activity occurs off campus, much of that in Westwood Village. UCPD policing also appears harsher off campus, with more arrests.
  • UCPD primarily guards property and polices who belongs. Most UCPD events concern either property or people deemed disruptive or out of place. Less than 10% involve reports of actual or threatened violence.
  • Most UCPD events do not involve any criminalized activity. Only 9% lead to arrests and 6% to other potential criminal law follow-ups.

Policing UCLA was released by the No UCPD Coalition, an undergraduate group mobilizing for divestment from police on the UCLA campus, working in collaboration with UCLA research partner Million Dollar Hoods and community partner Dignity and Power Now. The authors of this report analyzed five years of arrest data, from 2013 to 2018, gathered via Public Records Act requests. Its key findings include:

  • UCPD disproportionately arrests people of color, especially Black people. The report states 29% of UCPD arrests were of Black people, more than 10 times their share of the Westwood-area population. Latinx people made up 22% of those arrested, more than twice their share of the local population.
  • UCPD frequently arrests people for outstanding warrants after stopping them for some other asserted reason. Warrants were by far the most frequent basis for arrest – 22% of the total.
  • The other top arrest charges involve DUI, trespassing, public disturbances and theft. None of the top charges involve actual or threatened violence.

The reports expose the lie of UCPD’s role in campus and public safety. As we widely disseminate these reports and host campus and community discussions of the findings, we expect you, the UCLA administration, to make a commitment to the dismantling of UCPD.


The DIVEST/INVEST UCLA Faculty Collective


(Courtesy of the Divest/Invest UCLA Faculty Collective)
Dozens of protestors gathered at UCLA on Friday, May 21, to push for the dismantling of UCPD. (Courtesy of the Divest/Invest UCLA Faculty Collective)

The DIVEST/ INVEST UCLA Faculty Collective Mission Statement
Guided by the transformative worldview of abolition, the Divest/Invest UCLA Faculty Collective works to forward the urgent alternatives to policing that will build a future University beyond punishment and violence. Informed by numerous intellectual, artistic, and sociopolitical traditions and in solidarity with people and organizations of similar investment, this collective is committed to the end of policing as the logic and procedure by which the University of California system responds to and manages interpersonal harm and the systemic crisis of capital. We advocate for the complete dissolution of UCPD, the severance of all University contracts with law enforcement agencies, and for faculty, staff, students, and other members of our community to refuse all research, training, teaching, and other relationships in concert with or in advancement of policing and its agencies. We thus challenge the University’s commitment to and use of policing, which disproportionately violates Black, brown, Indigenous, queer, trans, and poor peoples and ultimately renders all members of campus and its surrounding communities less safe.


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