Professors and students discuss the future of campus security

KQED and CalMatters held a public discussion with students, faculty, administrators and law enforcement about how we can rethink the role of campus police.

By Anthony Lopez, Staff Writer

Security officer De Jesus sits in front of the Administration and Career Advancement building of Valley College. Thursday, March 30, 2021. (Photo by Margarita Garushyan/The Valley Star)

Due to ongoing police brutality in the country, University of California student activists are calling for the abolishment of campus policing.

A public discussion hosted on April 21 via Zoom by KQED and CalMatters provided numerous guest speakers to discuss what the future of campus policing should look like. Panelists included were UC Davis Chief of Police Joseph Farrow and Chair of the University of California Board of Regents John Pérez. After brief introductions, moderator Felicia Mello and co-moderator Omar Rashad gave the floor to student panelist Ja’Corey Bowens — representative of the Associated Students of San Francisco State University — to express his opinion in regards to campus police brutality.

“I believe the future of campus policing lies in the eventual pathway for abolition of the UPD,” said Bowens. “Police departments, in general, have tried to be reformed, but you cannot reform a system that’s inherently anti-black and based on white supremacy.”

Mello then shifted the meeting’s focus by asking a question about the biggest issues campuses have with policing and how those issues can be resolved. Pérez chimed in sharing stories of how he was mistreated by campus police a month before he went into office. He then spoke in regards to how the UC system should hold accountability towards campus policing.

“You’ve heard me talk about my own experiences, starting at the age of 14 and as recently as right before I went into office,” said Pérez. “We should be the leading edge of the change and one of those things is holding accountable law enforcement officers who make discriminatory stops.”

According to a report that was referenced during the meeting, research found that campus police departments at California’s public universities were less ethnically diverse than the student bodies they serve with. Less than a quarter of the students at public universities were white and about half of the police officers were as well.

A poll was released for all of the panelists, students and viewers to answer. The poll proposed the question: “What best describes your views on campus policing?” Thirty percent voted for the abolishment of the campus police department, 45 percent said they should be maintained with significant reforms and 25 percent said that campus policing is effectively keeping universities safe.

Panelists then proposed solutions to defund the campus police and invest money in student necessities. Those necessities include student programs, mental health resources, and decriminalization of homelessness. According to Asanet, campus police departments are found at over 60 percent of all four-year postsecondary institutions in this country. Campuses are announcing more impactful changes to the way they ensure safety, such as shifting some responsibilities to unarmed security guards or mental health counselors.

“Why do we need police on college campuses, it doesn’t make sense to me,” said Kimberly King, professor at Laney College. “Is it to police poor people to decide who’s a student and who's not? I believe 40 percent of officers on campus should not be armed. We have very little crime on our campuses.”