On May 10, UCR faculty members, community activists and former police chiefs gathered on campus for part one of “The History of Protest and Policing in the UC System and Beyond.” The program, in conjunction with the “Speak Out!” series, covered the logic of policing in modern day practices, an analysis of the interpersonal relations between law enforcement in communities and fostering alternative methods in improving community accountability were among the topics addressed. The panel discussion was intended “to educate,” yet the tone of solemnity lingered with the projected images of those who were arrested during the Jan. 18 UCR protest.
“The inherent racism of the practice of policing…[is] demonstrated through the idea of racial profiling which portrays certain individuals of a certain background as inherently violent,” stated UCR alumna Christina Jogoleff, who spoke of critical issues at the onset of the panel discussion. In tracing the historical origins of modern day policing, Jogoleff elaborated on how inherent racism is a result of scientific racism and racial profiling, which are “knotted” within practices of policing and prior definitions of criminality.
The normalization of police presence was addressed by various panelists, such as UCR student Ashley Blaxon, who discerned the problem of police intervention with that of the social divide between each community and the allegiance of police officers within their respective departments. Blaxon perceived a sense of criminality to the method of policing because the police department is seen as an external entity. Through the application of the law and prison system, police intervention is seen as an infringement of the unity within the community. As a result, Blaxon called for alternative modes of accountability in “how we view justice and problem solving.” Blaxon advocates the further application of conflict mediation within a community, which lessens the need for police intervention and allows for those to take individual responsibility, therefore decreasing the use of violence.
Emeritus professor of biochemistry Mike Dunn said that a citizen oversight model in Riverside is needed to further enhance accountability throughout local and city law enforcement agencies. “In California, at least 22 cities or counties have some form of citizen oversight,” said Dunn in an interview with the Highlander. He explained that only cooperation in a common vision would result in creating greater trust between the community and the police department. Dunn is the co-chair for the Riverside Coalition for Police Accountability, founded in response to the 1999 Tyisha Miller shooting.
Many panel speakers questioned the necessity of UC campus police, such as UCR alumnus Kevin Cosney, who said, “the very presence is one of a violent nature.” Yet, Cosney focused on the systemic issues which were rooted within the communities by addressing social disparities and crime prevention. In direct contradiction to this viewpoint, the recent draft of the UC Robinson-Edley Report, “Response to Protests on UC Campuses,” considers the presence of police on UC campuses to be “essential.” In the last of nine recommendations, Section V states that policing is meant to maintain the existing peace on campus, while addressing “life-threatening” incidences, where law enforcement can take preventative actions.
“So (we) had an obligation to bear in mind that the sacred trust translated into a responsibility on us…to treat people with dignity, respect, decency, and compassion; so those were the guiding principles that we’ve had in the department for the 24 years that I was there,” stated former Police Chief Hank Rosenfeld, who along with two other police chiefs, attempted to address the panel questions as to the function of the police, possible improvements and the future of policing on UC campuses. Rosenfeld also spoke of the natural anonymity of police departments in creating a safe environment, while insisting that evolving transparency was needed in developing a greater partnership with the community.
The four-hour discussion included two public forums and a short intermission, allowing individuals such as Christine Duran to express concerns over the police jurisdiction in crime-ridden areas; Duran explained that these areas were overly publicized by the city and often led to the racial profiling of those in the same community.
Part two of the “Protest and Policing” discussion will take place on May 25 and will include speeches from distinguished individuals such as Angela Davis at the University Theatre.