Reimagining Campus Safety

by | Nov 17, 2021 | Culture, Fall/Winter 2021-22, On Campus

When the police killing of George Floyd ignited a wave of nationwide protests and growing calls for police reforms last year, Chancellor Gary S. May created a task force to reimagine the future of campus safety at UC Davis.

The task force issued its report in June, and May accepted all eight recommendations, which included increased training, new approaches to policing and mental health calls, and ongoing dialogue to ensure the police department meets the needs of its diverse community.

The 32-member Task Force on Next Generation Reforms to Advance Campus Safety included students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni. It was co-chaired by Renetta Garrison Tull, vice chancellor of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Kevin Johnson, dean of the School of Law. 

“The recommendations are only the beginning of an informed and transparent dialogue with the greater UC Davis community on the future of the campus approach to public safety and ensuring that all of our diverse communities feel safe,” Johnson said.

The task force recommendations are: 

  1. Create an institutional structure allowing for continuing progress and review of the public safety function.
  2. Increase communication, transparency and training.
  3. Implement alternative approaches to public safety and policing. While UC Davis police currently participate in Yolo County’s restorative justice programs, the task force recommended UC Davis develop its own comprehensive program.
  4. Implement regular evaluation of police use of arms and bar UC Davis Police Department participation in the Law Enforcement Support Program. The task force supported expanding the number of unarmed officer positions, such as those in the CORE officer program, in which non-uniformed officers focus on community outreach and engagement.
  5. Improve responses to mental health calls. The task force recommended UC Davis form a workgroup to review how the police department handles mental health calls and “implement new approaches that reflect best practices in the field by fall 2022.”
  6. Review the role and scope of the Police Accountability Board. While the task force commended the work of the UC Davis board, it recommended further review of processes by an outside consultant.
  7. Address issues unique to the Sacramento campus. The report noted community safety concerns related to 24/7 operations on the Sacramento campus and recommended increasing public safety escorts for people working late-night or early-morning shifts.
  8. Acknowledge the legacy of the pepper spray incident. The group recommended acknowledging the upcoming 10-year anniversary of the pepper spray incident, when UC Davis police officers used pepper spray on peaceful student protesters, and holding a healing session led by restorative justice professionals. That incident, the report said, “has forever impacted the UC Davis campus.”