Yesterday, the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) wrote to the campus community, outlining critical steps toward community-focused policing. I am writing to underscore my full support for these efforts and to put their efforts in the larger context of our whole university response to the long-overdue national reckoning that we have witnessed since the horrific, brutal, racist killing of George Floyd.
In my initial message to the campus, I stated that “at the core of this crisis is the reality of anti-Black racism in the United States.” All of us must confront this reality. And over the past few months many of you have answered the call, by asking harder questions, examining our own complicity, and planning courses of action designed to mitigate the pervasive and systematic injustices and brutalities of anti-Blackness. The “End Racism” initiative associated with our Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory is just one example among many of the kind of systematic, cross-campus, grassroots efforts that have been taking place across the university.
Centrally, I have asked Vice Chancellor Doug Haynes to consult with a variety of campus constituencies in preparation for a wide-ranging campus initiative, which will be unveiled soon.
One vital part of this effort relates to the practices of policing. This is a matter we have been working on for some time. Three years ago, the UCI Academic Senate did an analysis and submitted a report that included recommendations for improving UCIPD-UCI community relations. Working in cooperation with the Senate we created our Public Safety Advisory Committee. At a systemwide level, the Office of the President convened a Task Force on University Policing, which developed 28 recommendations in the areas of community engagement, training, protocols and policies regarding use of force, and transparency. The implementation report of that task force has recently been released.
In early June we announced several initial steps to further align the UCI Police Department with our commitment to inclusive excellence and confronting anti-Black racism. But these were just first steps. In my judgment, it was imperative that we also explore much more thorough and fundamental alternatives to how we imagine and implement safety and security on our campus.
It is with an acknowledgement of this imperative that I offer my unreserved support for PSAC’s strong call for action. The members of PSAC have demonstrated a deep commitment to doing this vitally important work, and I am extremely grateful for their time, counsel, and dedication.
Our police officers receive tens of thousands of requests for service every year. I respect their professionalism and dedication, and I am grateful for their service. I am always mindful that there are events that happen on college campuses where we expect police to run toward the danger while everyone else is running to escape the danger. They do impressive community outreach. Many of them are UCI grads. They will always serve a vital role on our campus.
At the same time, our environment is changing, and ideas around policing and the promotion of public safety must evolve with it. This is not a time for marginal reforms around the edges. PSAC will do the necessary evaluation with full independence, and I look forward to receiving its recommendations within the next few months.
As I work with campus leaders to consider new approaches to public safety, I encourage you to contribute your ideas through email at Feedback-UCI-Policing@uci.edu or voicemail (anonymously if desired) at 949-824-5055.
And, while all corners of our campus support modernization and improvements, one thing will never change – our dedication to your health, security and safety, along with an unwavering commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.
Chancellor Howard Gillman