On May 27, two days after George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis Police Department officers, University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel announced via email that she had decided to limit the University’s ties with MPD. This decision was necessary in order to send the important message that the University does not tolerate police brutality and will not stand by corrupt and racist law enforcement. However, students are now calling for the University to go one step further and abolish the on-campus police department.
The University of Minnesota Police Department (UMPD) was established in 1947 as a way to protect students from on-campus crime. Their Community Investigator Division (CID) is in charge of investigating crimes committed on University-owned property, but their jurisdiction does not extend to the Marcy Homes, Como and Dinkytown neighborhoods. Those neighborhoods are inhabited by many University of Minnesota students and remain under the jurisdiction of the Minneapolis Police Department.
The lack of jurisdiction the UMPD has makes them essentially unnecessary. It is true that crime does occur directly on campus, but the majority of crimes against University of Minnesota students are perpetrated in the neighborhoods that fall under the jurisdiction of the MPD, which has a history of corruption and brutality against people of color.
The UMPD’s presence on campus is merely to create the illusion that students are safe. However, their ineffectiveness combined with a long history of racism within law enforcement does the opposite, especially for students of color.
We believe that the UMPD should be disbanded completely. Their close ties to the MPD and lack of jurisdiction in the Minneapolis area renders them problematic and makes students feel more on edge than safe. These past few weeks have proven that the entire United States law enforcement system needs to be completely dismantled in order for real change to occur and UMPD is no exception.
Students at the University of Minnesota have a right to call for the end of the UMPD. It is difficult to justify the existence of an on-campus police department that can do very little to actually protect students and works closely with the openly corrupt MPD. It is undeniable that crime occurs on campus, but it is time to find another way to manage it that does not involve ties to the MPD.
While President Gabel did the right thing by choosing to no longer work with the MPD, the university needs to go one step further in ensuring that corrupt law enforcement and racism is not condoned. We need to recognize that no police department, including the UMPD, is exempt from the complete reform and dismantling that must occur.