Police Presence on Campus: Examining Safety for Students of Color 
Wednesday, August 14, 2019 at 3:10PM
David H. K. Nguyen

In recent years, there have been several critiques on the use of force by campus law enforcement officers, also called campus police. These reports range from claims of excessive forceand claims of lack of force. In 2015, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a 2011-2012 academic year analysisthat compares campus law enforcement statistical data to the 2004-2005 academic year. The findings show the following: 

It is important to note that campus police typically have jurisdiction that extend beyond campus parameters. With this in mind, consider what happens when you have locked-and-loaded officers who can wield power on and off campus and who are ill-trained to interact with people. A likely and dangerous end result is police enforcing their authority on non-students on the campus. Even with technology, such as body cameras, police behavior can be and often is upheld because “[people will] have to make [their] own determination about that [they] saw in the video because we can clearly see one hand – we can’t see the other.” Whenever this is the case, officers will always be given gift of presumed innocence, so even if there is nothing in the other hand, the victim still must prove that there was nothing in that hand. Even after proving that there is nothing in the hand, the victim still falls short for making the officer feel like something was in the hand. All in all, that presumption of innocence for officers trumps all else.

The list above contains data that is especially concerning for people of color. Even in spaces, such as college and university campuses, where students are supposed to be safe, students of color are still not able to be safe because there are officers who may shoot them for the wrong moves. The Clery Actrequires that all colleges and universities report data pertaining to campus safety and security. The 38 percent of private institutions, though, as indicated in the short list of data above, may not always follow these reporting guidelines. Note that private police are not obligated to respond to FOIA(Freedom of Information Act) requests, and because of this, there may be difficulty with verifying information reported, if was reported. Further, because jurisdiction is not limited to college/university campuses, this means that people in the community are also in dangerbecause they may encounter campus law enforcement officers. 

The ideas of safety and protection have to be re-evaluated. Trusting the police to protect all students when only 40 percent of Black Americans (compared to 68 percent of White Americans) have favorable perceptions of policebecause they feel unprotected by them is a flawed system; arming police officers and letting them run loose in presumably safe spaces without proper training and effectivity assessment further endangers students and the community. Reporting data—as required under the Clery Act—is not going to bring back lives, end harassment, or improve the learning experience for students of color. It is clear that there is no uniformity in the expectations on addressing student concerns, and that is grossly dangerous (Word to University of Utah). All in all, officers need more training, not more weapons. Because they’ll already be on the college/university beat with readily available classrooms, they are already in the place with style and grace. Let’s sign them up! 

Sharanda Norman is a mother, a faculty advisor for Oregon State University’s student government, and a PhD student at OSU studying Adult and Higher Education with a concentration on Leadership in Higher Education. Her areas of research and interests are Black women scholars, college success narratives, and equity in student affairs.

Article originally appeared on Highereducationlaw.org (http://www.highereducationlaw.org/).
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