MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As the sun set Friday night, a group of students gathered in front of Coffman Memorial Union to be heard. They want to be directly involved in campus police accountability.
“We’re calling for a critical look at the UMPD, but we’re also calling for students control. We’re not just calling for accountability; we’re actually looking for change,” said Nadia Shaarawi, a senior at the U of M and a member of an action based, social justice group on campus called Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).
Back in May, University President Joan Gabel announced that the university is cutting ties with the Minneapolis Police Department, who are used for large events and football games on campus. Then last month, President Gabel announced an external review of the University Of Minnesota Police Department (UMPD).
It will be conducted by a man named Dr. Cedric Alexander, a former police chief in Atlanta. President Gabel said in a statement sent out to students and staff on Aug. 26:
“[Dr. Cedric Alexander] will be asked to assess the public safety landscape of our Twin Cities campus through several lenses, including security best practices, impacts of race, social justice, training and policing and policy making.”
“She’s trying to do work, but it’s through her bias of thinking police are the answer to everything instead of listening to us to figure out what we need,” said Jaelah Lymon, a junior at the U of M and a member of SDS.
Just after 10:30 p.m. on Friday, UMPD and Minneapolis police responded to an armed robbery on 14th and University Avenue, which is one of the main nightlife corridors of campus. This was one of four robberies to happen near campus just this week.
“While we do need police in some aspects, they’re not the answer for mental health calls and sexual assault calls as well see,” said Lymon.
These students still want UMPD, but are asking for them to be partially defunded to give some of their resources to the Aurora Center, which deals with sexual assault prevention on campus.
“I get the point they’re making. When people say defund the police, they don’t mean no police. It means re-associating those funds to other places,” said Brecken Winthorpe, a sophomore on campus.
President Gabel’s external review of UMPD has already started. Her office says Dr. Alexander will be meeting with students and staff during the review process.