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Monday, May 3, 2021

Monday, May 3, 2021

Various universities have hosted a range of events leading up May 3rd's abolitionist Day of Refusal, meaning a strike day. This is meant to kick off a month of direct actions (described on the Cops off Campus website) to raise awareness of the necessity and the possibility of converting most or all policing functions to constructive forms of safety practices, care, and community engagement.  

During the George Floyd phase of the Black Lives Matter movement last year, ideas about police replacement arrived in the mainstream media, like these good ones from a Princeton sociologist in the Washington Post.  If campus police departments had been formed to reduce the chances of regular cops busting student heads during anti-Vietnam war protests in the 1960s and 1970s, student heads were now in greater danger from campus police during contemporary protests--or non-protests: UCPD found the limelight in 2006 when UCLA police tasered a student who was studying in Powell Library.

When the UC Regents passed large tuition hikes in 2009 and 2011, students protested them. Various forms of UCPD misconduct wound up in the public eye, with beatings and arrests at UC Berkeley in November 2011, including of campus faculty (see Prof. Celeste Langan's post about her arrest, and Prof. Greg Levine's recap of political repression against campus protest).  UCPD-Davis's Sgt. Pike then went on a world-famous pepper-spray rampage. This killed off any lingering sense that campus police were special--more collaborative and communicative, less anti-student, less violent towards the unresisting than off-campus forces.  

In reaction, UCOP sponsored a report (Edley and Robinson, 2012) on UCPD conduct, but not much happened. Police abuse also did not become a tenure-track faculty issue. For example,  Davis faculty senate sided with Chancellor Katehi while condemning Sgt Pike's actions. The 2009-13 period offers a long, dynamic example of why policing activists are so deeply skeptical about "police reform."   

A defining campus cop incident occurred in July 2015, when a University of Cincinnati police officer killed Samuel Dubose during a routine traffic stop off campus. After this, the media paid more attention to the greater opacity of campus police reporting, their lesser training compared to municipal departments in many jurisdictions, and their not-so-different bad treatment of people from marginalized groups. 

The protests that really brought out the police were opposed to the effects of austerity policies that the university itself was  unable or unwilling to oppose. These were often tuition hikes that disparately punished poor students and students of color. These protests worked, with the nail in coffin being protests in 2014).  The state did not replace missing tuition hikes with meaningful state increases, as we've had occasion to note, so austerity effects continue to the present day. The grad student COLA strike at UC Santa Cruz in 2019-20 was another turn of the screw. They brought heavy police containment of strikers by various police forces, and appeared to be part of a strategy of physically intimidating the students to drop the strike.  

Photo Credit: Merc News

The later administrative suspension of the strikers who withheld grades (see Michael's overview), made policing again seem an extension of administrative refusal to take student concerns seriously, deliberate democratically, and find adequate funding for the educational core. 

In 2020, UCLA faculty discovered that the LAPD geeks arrested BLM protesters on a campus baseball field named for the barrier-breaking Black baseball legend and UCLA alum Jackie Robinson. This suggested that the one big advantage of the UCPD--that they were not the LAPD--could be readily set aside.  

Derek Chauvin's guilty verdict--in the Minneapolis trial of George Floyd's killer--coupled with ongoing police killings in the days before and after, have increased an interest in permanent policing changes that goes all the way to the White House. It's into this context that UCOP has recently launched proposals for changes in UC police policy. They include a ludicrous plan to form a kind of UC SWAT that would be deployed around the state to tamp down alleged unrest.  Here you can find Dylan Rodriguez discussing Cops Off Campus in the context of policing task forces, and Michael recently posting on the UC police proposals

Another good place for background on the no- combined issues of overall police conversion and stopping a new militarization of UCPD is this UCSB Faculty Association post. It has a number of links to statements and explainers about local and national dimensions, as well as its own statement, which nicely represents TT faculty who've mostly focused on faculty welfare, academic freedom, administrative misconduct, and budgeting coming to take a meaningful stand on campus police transformation, and linking it to core faculty concerns. 

Of course I can't stop without making a budget point. The political economy of universities is now pressuring units toward for-profit activities. The function of policing in this model was nicely described in a big Reclaim UC post last year.  It itemizes UC police budgets and also offers an important analysis of how policing fits into a skewed administrative understanding of risk management. Here I'll close with a simpler point about quantities of expenditure.  Reclaim UC notes that UCSB's police budget was just under $11 million in 2018-19 (the UC range of base budgets is from $5 million to $22.4 million in that year).  The 2019-20 grad COLA strike was for a pay increase that would eliminate "rent burden" for grad workers. My calculation at the time was that to take all rent burdened UCSB grads out of burden would cost UCSB about $5.2 million a year--or around half of the police budget.  (I'll do the math in a future post on the new rent hikes at UCSD.)

I hope Abolition May moves the debate toward some deep and comprehensive police conversion. 

Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 0

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Although Derek Chauvin's conviction for the murder of George Floyd offers essential accountability for one case of police violence, it is a small step towards a genuine reordering of public safety around notions of justice.  As Simon Balto has pointed out, the prosecutors made a serious and effective effort to separate Chauvin from "good policing" in order to treat him as a particularly violent officer.  Balto also suggests that a similar argument can be made about the Department of Justice's quick move to investigate the Minneapolis police department.  Both moves are necessary but they run the risk of providing accountability for a singular case while leaving intact the basic assumptions and structures of American policing.  Both the prosecution and the investigation are moments along a road that has been opened up by years of protest, legal action, critique, and reimagination of the possibilities for public safety.  Neither the Chauvin conviction nor the Minneapolis investigation mark a leap forward, but they do not impede the movement to transform if not abolish policing. 

But you would never know about these developments if you read UCOP's Police Policies and Administrative Procedures proposals.  Altering what is commonly referred to as "The Gold Book," these proposals ignore the wide-ranging debates and criticisms of UC policing over the last year--including those from the Academic Council.  Instead, UCOP has pushed towards an even more militarized and coercive structure for UCPD.   Although certain of the changes simply bring UCPD into compliance with legal requirements, as on the issue of federal law authorizing retired police officers in good standing to carry concealed weapons anywhere in the United States.  But those clauses should not blind us to the extent to which UCOP is voluntarily structuring UCPD with disregard to the multiple concerns raised within the university community and in ways that increase the likelihood of violence being used by UCPD.

I urge everyone to read the policy for themselves.  Everyone has until May 7 to send in comments on the proposed policy (you will find an address in the policy proposal).

But I would like to point out 3 instances within the policy that signify a complete disregard for community concerns.

1) The first occurs in Section 1506 and allows for a wide range of exceptions to the requirement to wear and keep active body cameras:

Exceptions to required activation or continuation of the BWV recording are: 

(a) When, in the officer’s judgment, activation, continuing to record, or changing the BWV functions would jeopardize their safety or the safety of the public. However, the officer shall activate or re-activate their BWV as soon as it is safe and practicable to do so unless other exceptional circumstances exist; 

b) When, in the officer’s judgment, a recording would interfere with their ability to conduct an investigation;

 (c) When recording could risk the safety of a confidential informant, citizen informant, victim, or undercover officer; 

(d) In patient care areas of a hospital, clinic, rape treatment center, or other healthcare facility (including mental health) unless enforcement action or evaluation by the officer under W&I §5150 et seq. is being taken in these areas. If recording is necessary, officers shall make reasonable efforts to avoid recording individuals other than the subject; Final 12 14 20

 (e) Once a crime scene is secured and the officer no longer has an investigative role, and where the chance of encountering a suspect is unlikely; 

(f) Prior to or while discussing a case on scene with other officers or during on-scene tactical planning; 

(g) When, in the officer’s judgment, privacy concerns outweigh any legitimate law enforcement interest in recording; 

(h) When a call for service is a phone call or phone report only; 

(i) When ordered to stop recording by a supervisor; 

(j) When the recording of a person is in violation of the law. (6)

A few of these are reasonable.  But a), b), e), f), g), h), and i) offer a remarkably wide range for discretion that could be used to conceal violations of law or policy.

2) The policy also allows for a wide range of what it refers to as "Pain Compliance Techniques" (section 809) including: "batons, conducted energy devices (CED), oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray, chemical agents, restraints, and kinetic energy projectiles (KE)." (35)  (The euphemisms are telling).  These can be used in a wide range of circumstances predicated on loose definitions of resistance, including, going limp,  locking of arms or even verbal actions indicating an intent not to comply. (30-31).  The issue is not whether these rules are legal.  Moreover, the University can and does insist that an officer's use of force be in accord with the "reasonable officer" doctrine asserted in Graham v. Connor (1989).  The question is whether or not the University should be deploying these weapons and doctrines at a moment when policing needs to be rethought dramatically.

3) Even these two aspects of the proposed policy pale in their failure to engage with the university as a whole compared to the proposed establishment of the Systemwide Response Team (15-23).  I do not have the time to fully detail this section and I urge everyone to read it for themselves.  In essence, it aims to establish a special SWAT-like force across the entire system with its own command structure, policies, equipment and personnel drawn from local forces: each campus is expected to designate 20% of its police force members to participate in the SRT.  

Although protection of "dignitaries" is listed as one task of the SRT. it is difficult to imagine this force as designed for anything but the control of protests.  Interestingly, I have not heard any comments from UC's National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement on this issue.

In their comment on the Chauvin verdict, President Drake and Chair of the Regents Perez expressed the wish that it would help the country "to reimagine and work toward a safer and more equitable future for us all." If they actually believe that they will recall this proposal and start a genuine process of rethinking policing at UC.

Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 0

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Wednesday, February 17, 2021
An Open Letter to University of California President Michael V. Drake and the University of California Board of Regents

Dear President Drake and Members of the UC Board of Regents, 

We write to you today with our backs against the wall. As department chairs and program directors in the most racially diverse college at one of the two most racially diverse campuses in the University of California system, we in UC Riverside’s College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (CHASS) and our staff and faculty colleagues across UCR have been struggling for years to make ends meet. Already chronically underfunded by the state, UCR was devastated by the budget decisions made by then-President Yudof and the Regents at the height of the Great Recession. We have worked in staggeringly understaffed and underfunded conditions since then. Yet on top of our chronic underfunding by the state, we now face an additional – and permanent – 11 percent budget cut. This is not just unsustainable financially, it is unsupportable on grounds of fairness, equity, and most importantly, of racial justice – pillars of the University of California’s mission. 

UCR’s budget is made up almost entirely of salaries and benefits – in CHASS, the proportion is 98 percent. Thus any permanent budget cut inevitably is a cut in people. We hemorrhaged staff and faculty during the Great Recession, and although we have been able to hire additional faculty in subsequent years, our student population has grown rapidly enough to largely outpace those gains, leaving us severely overcrowded and still struggling to rebuild. Our world-class research university already operates on a shoestring; further cuts would be devastating. For many of us, this pattern of systemic neglect and chronic underfunding of a university serving a student body composed of at least 85 percent students of color is troublingly reminiscent of redlining, the practices consolidated after the Second World War that devastated thriving neighborhoods made up predominantly of people of color. We are writing to implore you to stop the redlining of UCR. 

With roots stretching back to the turn of the twentieth century, UCR has a distinguished history in the UC system. A former agricultural experiment station, UCR was meant to serve as a flagship undergraduate institution in the UC system, serving the Inland region of Southern California. UCR is second only to UC Merced in the percentage of students of color, has one of the highest percentages of Pell grant recipients in the nation, and serves a student body that is well over 50 percent first-generation college students. Yet our increasingly brown and working-class campus has frequently been overlooked or sidelined within the UC system. 

This is not simply a symbolic move; even after a post-recession reconfiguration of the UC system’s distribution of state funds to its campuses, UCR currently receives approximately $8,500 per student, whereas UCLA receives closer to $11,500 and the Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, and San Diego campuses receive $10,000. Yet our student-to-faculty ratio is higher than the UC system average, and our student-to-staff ratio is fully 38% higher. We applaud the recent “re-benching” decision that will bring the funding of UCR and other under-funded campuses to within 95 percent of the systemwide per-student average by 2024. But as with redlined neighborhoods, the damage to UCR’s resources from decades of neglect cannot be reversed simply by bringing our support from the system up to an amount that is only slightly below average rather than grossly below average, nor will the phased-in implementation of this plan help us avoid devastation in the present moment. We were facing an 11 percent budget cut before the announcement of the re-benching; we are facing the same budget cut after its announcement, because rebenching is not enough. 

It takes more funding, not less, to create an educational environment in which first-generation college students and students of color can thrive. UCR has been lauded for closing the gap in graduation rates between white students and students of color, and for the past two years US News and World Report has ranked us the top US university for social mobility. We have an internationally renowned faculty that includes two Nobel Laureates, close to fifty Fulbright and National Endowment for the Humanities Fellows, and nineteen Guggenheim Fellows. But in addition to being highly accomplished researchers, scholars, and artists, our faculty are something more: many of us came to and have remained at UCR because of our deep commitment to serving first-generation and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) students. UCR educates Californians – 96 percent of our students are California residents – and in return, because we do not expand our budget with out-of-state tuition, we suffer. Were all UC campuses facing the same dire circumstances, we would weather the storm shoulder-to-shoulder with them. Instead, we are being left out in the cold yet again: when many colleges at other UC campuses are losing only two to three percent of their budgets, we are facing the stark decisions demanded by an 11 percent permanent budget cut. This abandonment by the President’s office and the Board of Regents is a demoralizing example of structural racism. 

For nearly a year, we have all witnessed the disproportionate impact of both COVID-19 and the pandemic-induced recession on BIPOC communities, some of them the same communities devastated by redlining and nearly destroyed by the Great Recession. Communities subjected to decades and, in many cases, centuries of systemic racism have few of the resources that have helped many white communities to remain safe and financially solvent during this crisis. Systematically deprived of resources through decades of neglect, our campus – with one of the brownest and poorest student bodies in the entire UC system – is facing economic devastation. How will staff who already do the work of two people take on more, if we have to cut our staffing even further? How will departments that are already stretched to breaking stretch further? Should we increase our teaching load even more, and destroy the stellar educational system we have built in favor of an impersonal factory model? Should we turn away from our research and creative production and deprive our students of the cutting-edge insights and opportunities afforded by a world-class faculty? With a globally engaged student body, should we meekly accept the elimination of UCR from the UCDC program and others like it? The UC system clearly believes that students at other UC campuses deserve these opportunities; are our students any less deserving? 

The correlation is glaring between the fact that we serve one of the highest numbers of BIPOC students in the system, the historic lack of systemwide investment in our campus, and the offer of a solution that brings the UC system’s support of us to less far below average over the course of the next several years. In a time of long-overdue attention to the destruction wreaked by systemic racism in the US, it should finally be clear that UCR’s students deserve a fully equal investment from the UC system, including support to correct for years of economic marginalization. It’s time to stop redlining UCR. 


Juliann Emmons Allison, Director, Global Studies

Sheila Bergman, Executive Director, UCR ARTS

Heidi Brayman, Director, Liberal Studies

Rogerio Budasz, Chair, Department of Music

Edward T. Chang, Director, Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies Christopher K. Chase-Dunn, Director, Institute for Research on World-Systems Walter A. Clark, Director, Center for Iberian and Latin American Music Derick A. Fay, Acting Chair, Department of Anthropology

Tod Goldberg, Program Director, Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts

Weihsin Gui, Director, Southeast Asian Studies Program

Sherine Hafez, Chair, Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies

Steven M. Helfand, Chair, Department of Economics

Rickerby Hinds, Chair, Department of Theater, Film, and Digital Production Tamara C. Ho, Director, California Center for Native Nations

Matthew King, Director, Asian Studies Program

Jacques Lezra, Chair, Department of Hispanic Studies

David Lloyd, Chair, Department of English

Tom Lutz, Chair, Department of Creative Writing

John N. Medearis, Chair, Department of Political Science

Yunhee Min, Chair, Department of Art

Jennifer R. Nájera, Chair, Department of Ethnic Studies

Daniel Ozer, Chair, Department of Psychology

Andrews Reath, Chair, Department of Philosophy

Ellen Reese, Co-Chair, Department of Sociology and Chair of Labor Studies Judith Rodenbeck, Chair, Department of Media and Cultural Studies

Jeff Sacks, Chair, Department of Comparative Literature and Languages Michele Salzman, Chair, Department of History

Joel Mejia Smith, Chair, Department of Dance

Glenn Stanley, Co-chair, Department of Sociology

Jason Weems, Chair, Department of the History of Art

Melissa M. Wilcox, Chair, Department of Religious Studies 

Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 0

Friday, January 29, 2021

Friday, January 29, 2021

by Dylan Rodríguez

2020 Freedom Scholar

Professor, Dept. of Media and Cultural Studies

University of California, Riverside

Police Restoration at the University of California

Collective movement against antiblack policing has proliferated among University of California (UC) faculty, employees, and students since the summer months of  2020. Influenced and led by the practices and frameworks of Black radicalism—specifically, Black diasporic, Black feminist, and Black queer and trans abolitionist organizing—a growing number of people affiliated with the UC system are challenging the university’s complicity in the normalized state violence that kills people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Atatiana Jefferson, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Korryn Gaines, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Tyisha Miller, and so many others.

The formation of the abolitionist Cops Off Campus campaign led by the UC systemwide group UCFTP (of which i am an active member), emergence of the Divest/Invest collective at the UCLA campus, and statements of commitment to abolitionist principles by the University of California Student Association are just three prominent examples of recent mobilizations that have drawn from campus-based groups, including contingent faculty, labor unions, student organizations, mutual aid organizations, and even some research centers.[1]Almost inevitably, this surge of activism has been accompanied by dozens of public statements from UC departments, university administrators, and police chiefs expressing varieties of concern, outrage, sympathy, and disgust over police killings of Black people.[2]

The administrative response of the UC system to revolts against antiblack police violence and “systemic racism” mirrors the broader national drift toward a reformist restoration of law-and-order, political stability, and respectable policing.  Relying on the triage and public relations model of administratively appointed “campus safety task forces” (in which university police are core members), UC administrators exemplify a process of institutional consultation, auditing, and piecemeal reform that installs the reproduction of police power as a premise of deliberation.

Campus safety task forces are not merely inadequate to the task of slowing, interrupting, or ending the asymmetrical terror produced through modern campus policing—including but not limited to gendered antiblackness, Islamophobia, queer and transphobia, misogyny, ableism, white supremacy, and racial violence.  Beyond this fundamental and unsurprising inadequacy, these task forces work to sustain and re-legitimize police power while extending the parameters of policing as a layered infrastructure of state and state-condoned violence.  To echo UCFTP’s January 2, 2021 statement, “Task forces allow universities to preserve and protect the violent institution of policing…. Declining to serve on task forces… recognizes and exposes task forces for what they are.”[3]


Audit, Wash, and Repeat:  The UCOP Task Force on Universitywide Policing (2018-2020)

Former UC President Janet Napolitano—who served as Secretary of Homeland Security under President Barack Obama—exemplified the logic and function of such police reform task forces in the creation of the 2018 UC Presidential Task Force on Universitywide Policing. While it is beyond the intent of this short contribution to thoroughly detail the content and outcomes of its full report, it is worth emphasizing that the Presidential Task Force was solely concerned with improving the UCPD’s internal efficiency and restoring its institutional legitimacy in the aftermath of multiple, prominent incidents of police violence against students during the 2010s.  While Lt. John Pike’s pepper spraying of UC Davis students during a nonviolent demonstration in 2011 was the most notorious such spectacle, examples of the UCPD’s proclivity for physical and chemical violence against campus and community members abound.[4] Yet, of the task force’s twenty-eight recommendations, none alluded to this archive of violence as cause to reconsider the campus policing paradigm.   Instead, 


·      15 recommendations focus on data “transparency” and the rationalization of processes for filing and investigating complaints against the UC police;

·      7 recommendations address “use of force” protocols and police training for “procedural justice, implicit bias, mental health, de-escalation, cultural sensitivity, sexual orientation and trauma-informed interviewing” as well as “educational and awareness presentations for students, staff and faculty;” and 

·      5 recommendations outline the need for campus based “independent advisory boards” alongside measures to improve the UCPD’s “community engagement.”[5]


(The 28th recommendation is to create the implementation plan itself.) While Napolitano’s task force completed its work in 2019, it seems clear that the variously titled UC “campus safety” task forces created since June 2020 have drawn from her administrative blueprint.

The mandate for a renewed, public-facing round of campus police reform seemed clear in July 2020 when the UC Regents announced their selection of Michael V. Drake to succeed UC President Janet Napolitano. [6] During the late winter and early spring, under the authority of Chancellor Cynthia Larive, the UCPD had violently repressed the graduate student-led wildcat COLA (cost of living adjustment) strike at UC Santa Cruz.  In June, the Los Angeles (city) Police Department prevailed on an agreement with the UCLA administration to convert Jackie Robinson Stadium into a temporary outdoor jail for people arrested during mass demonstrations throughout Los Angeles after the police killing of George Floyd.[7]  

At the time of Drake’s appointment, widespread condemnation of UC administrators’ history of sanctioning law enforcement violence seemed to mesh with the incoming UC President’s poignant account of his own encounters with police harassment: “It’s been a part of American life for all too long, and it’s something that needs to stop and we need to find better ways of being able to keep our communities safe.”[8] (Widely acclaimed for his impressive academic and administrative credentials, Drake is also the first Black President of the University of California.)


To “Reflect Our Values”:  The UCR Campus Safety Task Force (2020-present)

During the latter part of 2020, Chancellors at individual UC campuses convened various task forces and advisory boards as part of an urgent administrative attempt to navigate the crisis of police legitimacy. Upon forming the UC Riverside Campus Safety Task Force in September, UCR Chancellor Kim Wilcox described its purpose as a “review of our overall campus safety efforts, focusing primarily on operation of the UCR Police Department and its relationship to other entities on campus and throughout the community.”  While Wilcox offered the Task Force wide latitude “to prioritize topics that they believe to be more important,” he took special pains to address what he considered to be the limits of its charge:


I am not asking the Task Force to opine on the issue of whether we should maintain a police force. We are better served as a community by having our own police force, which reflects our values and reports to the campus. Without our own police, we would fall under the jurisdiction of the Riverside Police Department and the Riverside County Sheriff.[9] [emphasis added]


Two parts of Wilcox’s qualifying statement clarify the assumptive premises of the UCR Task Force’s convening.  First, while it is a common rhetorical convention for elected officials, police chiefs, and other institutional executives and administrators to invoke a universalized notion of “our values” in the course of narrating their policies and decisions, such pronouncements avert sober consideration of the ethical premises of the university:  What if “our values,” read as the institutionally enforced priorities of the university, effectively (though tacitly) encompass systemic, discursive, normalized antiblackness and antiblack policing at the very same time that they fetishize notions of Black student “success” and graduation rates?[10]

Posed another way: How does the policing of Black people, Black presence, and Black (intellectual, cultural, and social) life form the historical conditions of possibility for “our values,” which in turn cohere institutional notions of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” especially when they are applied to the work of university policing task forces?

Second, Wilcox’s preemptive dismissal of abolitionist forms of campus safety as a concession to the jurisdiction of the city police and county sheriff is a red herring.  This is because of the longstanding practice of “concurrent jurisdiction.”[11]  Put simply, city and county police already have shared authority with the UCRPD on campus and campus-owned property, and such is a common arrangement for campuses that employ their own police forces.

Under concurrent jurisdiction, a campus administration creates a mutually recognized agreement (memorandum of understanding) with city police and county sheriff’s departments that allows the university/college police to operate with relative autonomy on campus grounds (or, in the UCPD’s case “within one mile of the [campus’s] exterior boundaries”).[12]  Importantly, there is no inherent prohibition on the possibility of a university negotiating concurrent jurisdiction with external police departments in the absence of a campus police force, provided alternative forms of security and safety are instituted in place of the UCPD.  

The spectacle of the UCR Task Force’s one hour virtual “town hall,” held on November 12, 2020, evidenced the administrative leadership’s lack of preparation, research, and seriousness in grasping their topic.  This was despite the fact that, according to Associate Chancellor Christine Victorino, it was provided with a “shared drive with scholarly work in the area of police abolitionism [sic] and racial profiling.”  (Full transparency: this shared drive apparently includes at least one of my published scholarly articles on policing and police violence in the UC system.)

The hourlong town hall provided ample reason to conclude that the Task Force’s primary purpose—in resonance with the Chancellor’s protective pro-UCPD dictate—is to support and defend the existence of the campus police, while making non-binding, consultative suggestions to modestly revise some of its internal and public-facing practices. 

While the Chair of the Task Force (a local attorney and UCR alumnus) assured the hundred or so audience members that the group was “open” to considering abolitionist alternatives to the UCRPD, the prominent (and rather defensive) presence of UCR Police Chief John Freese constituted an embodied rebuttal of the Chair’s generous claim. 

In response to Freese’s description of the “diversity” of the UCRPD (“We have twenty-two male officers, three female, one Asian [sic] officer, two Black officers, seven Hispanic [sic] officers, and fifteen white officers”), i posed a written question to the panel:  Is the Task Force aware that increased diversity of police personnel does not lead to less racist, less sexist, less transphobic, less antiblack police practices?  The Police Chief’s rambling response to this rudimentary question further undermined confidence in the Task Force’s credibility and analytical rigor, given Freese’s central role in its deliberations:


We—like all police departments—we hire from the human race.  It doesn’t matter what color our police officers are.  Our police officers, just like any human beings, can have, um, feelings and things that are part of their lives and that they act on, sometimes subconsciously. As the leader of this department, I’ve always had a clear stance that we do not stand for any kind of prejudiced behavior from our officers….  [T]he best way I can answer that question, is that we do the best with hiring from the human race. I acknowledge that it doesn’t matter what color or the makeup of our police department or any police department, you’re, you’re uh, you’re dealing with human beings.[13]


Especially revealing is a passage from the minutes of the Task Force meeting held immediately after the Town Hall:


[UCR Police Chief] John Freese raised his concern about a recommendation for abolishing the police force; [Associate Chancellor] Christine Victorino suggested focusing on developing justified, well-founded, and implementable recommendations.[14]


While the Town Hall was nothing short of an administrative shitshow, the Task Force continued its work unabated, spurred by a January 2021 deadline to submit “recommendations” to the Chancellor.  Serious questions about the Task Force’s credibility have persisted, due in part to administrative incompetence in the appointment of its members:  at least two Black student appointees were not initially asked to consent to be publicly named as Task Force members, and one was no longer enrolled at the university at the time of their appointment (their name was still listed as a Task Force member in early January 2021).  Yet, questions of credibility and competence ultimately have little to do with the Task Force’s most important purpose: to simply exist for a finite period.


Task Force As Police Power

The public ritual of the “campus safety task force” reproduces the legitimacy of police presence by inviting criticism of its excess, dysfunction, mismanagement, corruption, antiblackness, racism, misogyny, queer phobia, transphobia, ableism, and white supremacy (etc.).  Such task forces are a production and performance of police power and are thus constitutive of, rather than external to it; their deliberations (including task force reports, white papers, and recommendations) extend the technology of policing to incorporate the ceremonial participation of critics, individualized and communal targets of police terror, and survivors of acute (and homicidal) police violence.  These processes tend to not only incorporate the direct participation of police, but also extend the reach of domestic counterinsurgency as a defense of the fundamental legitimacy of police power (violence) and police militarization (domestic war).  This counterinsurgency serves to protract and reproduce antiblack (etc.) state violence at the very same time that it solicits indignant outrage against it.  Yet, the omnipresence of police reform task forces at university and college campuses also occasions an overdue reflection on the continuities of policing and police power beyond “the police.” 

The university administration is police power, and university police are the direct expression of administrative power.


UCRFTP Statement on the UCR Campus Safety (Policing) Task Force is HERE

Signing page is HERE


NOTES   Photo Credit

[1] See UCFTP social media sites at  https://www.facebook.com/UCFTP/https://twitter.com/ucftp, and https://www.instagram.com/uc_ftp/ (accessed January 2021); UCLA Divest/Invest website, https://challengeinequality.luskin.ucla.edu/abolition-repository/ (accessed January 2021); UCSA June 2, 2020 press release, https://ucsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/UCSA-Statement-Anti-Blackness-Police-Violence-6_2.pdf; and Thao Nguyen, “Coalition launches campaign to remove police from UC campuses,” The Daily Californian, September 4, 2020, https://www.dailycal.org/2020/09/04/coalition-launches-campaign-to-remove-police-from-uc-campuses/ (accessed January 2021).

[2] By way of example, see University of California Office of the President, “UC statement on protests, violence following George Floyd’s death,” Sunday, May 31, 2020, https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/press-room/uc-statement-protests-violence-following-george-floyd-s-death (accessed January 2021); UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Cynthia Larive, “Statement on George Floyd to UC Santa Cruz Community,” May 29, 2020, https://news.ucsc.edu/2020/05/statement-on-george-floyd.html (accessed December 2020); UC Davis Chancellor Gary May, “Chancellor’s Statement on George Floyd,” https://leadership.ucdavis.edu/news/messages/chancellor-messages/statement-on-george-floyd (accessed December 2020).

[3] UCFTP, “Against Task Forces,” public statement issued January 2, 2021, https://twitter.com/ucftp/status/1345460418714562560 (accessed January 2021). 

[4] See Dylan Rodríguez, “Beyond ‘Police Brutality’: Racist State Violence and the University of California,” American Quarterly (Currents), Vol. 64, No. 2, June 2012, p. 301-313; Gabe Schneider, “UC Campuses Have Disclosed Virtually No Records Under Police Transparency Law,” Voice of San Diego, May 12, 2020,

https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/public-safety/uc-campuses-have-disclosed-virtually-no-records-under-police-transparency-law/ (accessed January 2021); Tyler Kingkade, “University Of California Campus Police Have History Of Excessive Force Against Protesters,” The Huffington Post, December 9, 2011, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/california-campus-police-clash-with-protesters-ows_n_1125537 (accessed January 2021); Paul D. Thacker , ‘Shock and Anger at UCLA,” Inside Higher Ed November 17, 2006, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2006/11/17/shock-and-anger-ucla (accessed January 2021); Lauren Hernández and Sarah Ravani, “Students protest UC Berkeley police arrests they say were racially motivated,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 20, 2019, https://www.sfchronicle.com/crime/article/Students-racially-profiled-brutalized-by-13701947.php (accessed January 2021).

[5] University of California Presidential Task Force on Universitywide Policing Implementation Report, June 2020.


Michael V. Drake to become 21st president of the University of California

UC Office of the President

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/press-room/michael-v-drake-become-21st-president-university-california (accessed January 2021). 

[7] See Summers, L., & Gougelet, K. (2020). Whose University? When Police Pass the Baton to Campuses, Society for the Anthropology of Workhttps://doi.org/10.21428/1d6be30e.8cc96f6fhttps://saw.americananthro.org/pub/whose-university-when-police-pass-the-baton-to-campuses/release/1(accessed January 2021); Nina Agrawal, “‘Violation of our values,’ UCLA chancellor says of LAPD’s use of Jackie Robinson Stadium,” Los Angeles Times, June 4, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-06-04/ucla-chancellor-calls-lapd-use-of-jackie-robinson-stadium-to-process-arrests-a-violation (accessed December 2020); “Statement on LAPD using Jackie Robinson Stadium,” June 4, 2020, https://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/ucla-a-violation-of-our-values (accessed December 2020); 

[8] Teresa Watanabe, “UC President-elect Michael V. Drake knows firsthand about harsh police tactics,” LA Times, JULY 8, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-07-08/uc-president-elect-michael-v-drake-knows-firsthand-about-harsh-police-tactics (accessed January 2021).

[9] Chancellor Kim Wilcox, Campus safety task force announcement, September 14, 2020 https://insideucr.ucr.edu/announcements/2020/09/14/campus-safety-task-force-announcement (accessed January 2021).


Teresa Watanabe

African American students thrive with high graduation rates at UC Riverside

Los Angeles Times, June 14, 2017

https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-uc-riverside-black-students-20170623-htmlstory.html (accessed January 2021).

[11] University of California Universitywide Police Policies and Administrative Procedures, January 7, 2011, p. 8. https://policy.ucop.edu/doc/4000382/PoliceProceduresManual (accessed January 2021). Cited in UC Senate Systemwide Public Safety Task Force Final Report Submitted to the University Committee on Faculty Welfare (UCFW) 

June 1, 2018, p. 71. https://senate.universityofcalifornia.edu/_files/reports/SNW-JN-gold-book-task-force-report.pdf (accessed January 2021)

[12] Ibid.

[13] Task Force on Campus Safety Town Hall, November 12, 2020 https://chancellor.ucr.edu/task-force-campus-safety (accessed December 2020).

[14] Task Force on Campus Safety, UC Riverside Office of the Chancellor, https://chancellor.ucr.edu/task-force-campus-safety (accessed December 2020).

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