UMN conducting review of Twin Cities campus police

The review has been met with mixed reactions from student leaders.


Image by Tony Saunders

A University of Minnesota Police car is parked outside of the Graduate Hotel on East Bank on Thursday, June 21.

by Hana Ikramuddin and Zyon Edwards

In the wake of global protests against the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake and killing of George Floyd, the University of Minnesota is conducting a review of its campus police, which has had a mixed reaction from student leaders.
The review, which will assess public safety on the Twin Cities campus, will be completed by Cedric Alexander, a former police chief and expert on police reform. Some students have expressed disappointment about the review.
The review will end in a set of recommendations on how to improve the relationships between the University of Minnesota Police Department and the surrounding community, Alexander said. It is unclear whether he will continue working with the University following the review to help implement the recommendations.
Alexander has estimated the review could take over four months to complete and said he intends to talk with students, faculty and UMPD officers throughout the process.
“I want to hear from the student groups … I want to talk to the [UMPD] chief. I want to talk to his personnel. I want to see how they engage with students around campus,” Alexander said in an interview with the Minnesota Daily. “I don’t want to just be seen as some outside consultant, because what’s important for me is [to] also be seen as someone that’s part of the fabric of … your institution.”
Alexander also is a clinical psychologist and was a member of President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
At a recent rally, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) called the review unnecessary and said they feel the recent police shootings should provide enough context to warrant significant changes within UMPD.
SDS member and recent graduate Olivia Crull said she is critical of the review, because she believes it could cause the University to avoid making lasting change to UMPD while appearing to take action. Crull also criticized Alexander’s history as a police chief.
“Weak reform isn’t going to do anything for the campus community,” Crull said.
The Black Student Action Committee (BSAC) has called for the disarming and defunding of the University’s police department since the group’s reinstatement this summer. In the interest of avoiding hierarchy and representing the organization as a whole, several undergraduate members of the committee responded to the Daily anonymously to offer their perspectives on the review.
“I certainly hope that Dr. Alexander will be a good fit and actually do everything Gabel listed, but I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if it is just another empty promise of change,” read one email from a BSAC member.
While some students within the organization said they believe the review is an act of progress for students of color, others criticized the review as a performative action or an effort to shift focus away from the University.
“This is not what we have been asking for,” another BSAC student said in an email to the Daily. “How is someone who once was a cop, going to hold other cops accountable?”
In an email to the Daily, Meredith Song, a fourth-year student majoring in genetics and gender, women and sexuality studies, said that she would like to see the University make more significant strides toward reform. Song also expressed concern about the review’s potential to overlook the voices of students and activists who are Black, Indigenous and people of color by prioritizing formal perspectives rather than student experiences.
“Black students have already been speaking out against UMPD and students have been organizing for years to institute more accountability over the police force,” her email read. “Why aren’t these credible reviews?”
Arshia Hussain, a third-year sociology student and former chair of the Minnesota Student Association’s Non-Citizen and Immigrant Task Force, expressed dissatisfaction with the way that UMPD has handled the safety of students of color in the past, especially during June protests.
“I think that the task force review process is a step in the right direction, but my personal stance is Abolish the Police, not reform,” Hussain wrote in an email to the Daily. “I am very interested in seeing what the President’s Office has in plan for next steps.”
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated how police killed George Floyd and misstated Arshia Hussain’s title.