Security Addresses Allegations
To the Editor:
On Sunday morning, March 18, 2001 at approximately 12:17 a.m. two Safety and Security officers –– one white, one African-American –– learned that four white males had been seen attempting to steal a foosball table from the lounge of Dascomb. After abandoning the table in the doorway of Dascomb, the white males were seen fleeing in a southerly direction, and the officers proceeded east along College Street in order to begin looking for them. They encountered Sergeant Kriesen from Safety and Security, and acquainted him with the situation.
At approximately this time, the patrol car passed three female African-American students, just as the officers were looking in their direction for the white males. The car slowed momentarily when one of the officers thought they made a gesture trying to get their attention, but with more pressing business, the officers determined that they could not stop and there was no additional contact with the students at that time.
A short time later, having circled around in search of the white males, the officers again encountered the three students. One of the officers recognized them, and thought perhaps they were in need of a ride. But there was a brief exchange, in which the officers looked toward the women, and they made no effort to walk toward the car, and the patrol car drove off.
Having a patrol car stop near you is not a pleasant experience for many people. If one is black –– as I am –– the experience can sometimes be frightening. The historic abuse of African-Americans at the hands of police officers means that a black person in America can never be certain of the reasons for which they have attracted the attention of the police. In this instance, the officers had slowed to see if they could be of help to some students that they recognized. But because they did not get out of the patrol car to speak with the students, their purposes were unclear. The misunderstanding that developed is in large measure the responsibility of the officers, and the conclusions to which the students jumped were fully understandable. In the wake of this incident, we have spoken as a department about the ways in which we represent authority and the need to make our intentions and purposes clear to students. We are developing protocols to ensure that we do not unnecessarily alarm students, and to make sure that we are communicating clearly about our intentions.
Our review of this incident helps us to evaluate ourselves, so that we can continue to provide the best possible services to our students and the larger community. These policy revisions have now been implemented:
1.) Students who request escorts and transportation will be contacted personally by the responding officer to identify the particular need of the individual(s). As a safety issue, more communication should take place between the officer and the student(s) to establish a level of feeling safe during the encounter.
2.) Any member of the community who wishes to express a concern, question or lodge a complaint involving any security personnel can do so directly to the office of the Director of Security if they do not wish to have contact with department personnel who may be on duty at the time of the incident in question. The Director or the Assistant Director of Safety and Security will then conduct an internal investigation. The results of this investigation will then be discussed with the complainant(s). Any complaints against the Director of Safety and Security should be filed with the Dean of Students.
3.) The department will identify and support additional training for all of its personnel in race relations and cultural sensitivity.
As we continue to refine the skill level of officers, we need to make sure that they understand and share the College’s dedication to genuine diversity. We welcome input from students on these and other issues, and seek students’ assistance in helping us to best serve their safety and security needs.
–Robert K. Jones
Director of Safety and Security
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