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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, April 18, 2024

Campus Safety and Policing workstream highlights possibilities for TUPD reform, arming status to be revisited

The Tufts University Police Department's sign is pictured on Jan 23, 2018.

University President Anthony Monaco presented the findings from the Campus Safety and Policing workstream, including the recommendation to form a working group regarding the arming status of Tufts University Police Department officers, in a Feb. 17 email to the Tufts community. 

The Campus Safety and Policing workstream, which was one of five workstreams formed in July as a part of Monaco’s “Tufts as an Anti-Racist Institution” initiative, was tasked with reviewing the existing model of the TUPD

Twenty-four members including administrators, professors and students contributed to the workstream, and have met frequently over a period of several months. Its findings were presented as a final report to President Monaco and the administration.

The workstream did not come to a conclusion regarding the arming status of TUPD officers. Rather, the group proposed creating a separate working group focused solely on exploring alternative models to the TUPD’s current arming policies. The report suggested that such a group could meet over an approximately 12-month period to address this discussion in a “lengthier and more comprehensive communication and engagement effort” than the workstream. 

Recommendations by the workstream were split into five main sections: Mission; Organization Model and Resources; Policies and Practices; Training, Education and Communication; and Oversight and Accountability. 

The workstream did not come to a conclusion regarding the arming status of TUPD officers. Rather, the group proposed creating a separate working group focused solely on exploring alternative models to the TUPD’s current arming policies.

The Mission section of the report focused on updated values, community building and leadership both within the TUPD and between the TUPD and the Tufts community. Among these recommendations was the proposal to hire a leader of the TUPD who shares the mission and values of the university and is willing to implement the recommendations outlined in the workstream’s report. 

The university has already begun the hiring process for a new leader, according to Executive Vice President Mike Howard, and he said the process is expected to take several months. 

"This search is being supported by Spelman and Johnson, a leadership search firm that has an established reputation for developing broad, deep, and diverse pools of talent for the consideration of search committees such as ours," Howard wrote in an email to the Daily.

The workstream also detailed the role that community building can play in establishing trust between the TUPD and the Tufts community through initiatives such as increasing biking and walking patrols and participating in annual “community immersion sessions.” 

The Organization Model and Resources section of the report included recommendations that addressed the presence and role of TUPD officers on campus. Along with the recommendations regarding the arming status of police officers on campus, the section advocated for the outsourcing of current TUPD responsibilities to non-police-officer personnel.

According to the workstream, such sworn personnel currently respond to routine services on campus, including well-being checks, lockouts and transports, but the report advises that this changes.

“These activities do not require the expertise, training, and authority of a police officer who is sworn and armed,” the report said.

Additionally, the workstream recommended that the university expand its use of mental health professionals to respond to mental health crises. The report indicated that such an expansion should occur collaboratively between the Public Safety, Health Service and Student Affairs departments, citing an increasing campus need for resources regarding mental health.

“The number of service calls involving mental health matters is significant and has been steadily increasing over the last decade,” the report said. “Although police officers are trained in mental health basics, there are more appropriate and effective ways to respond to people in a mental health crisis.”

Additional proposals included the hiring of a community engagement officer, as well as a recommendation for the Department of Public Safety to review the compositional diversity of the TUPD.

The Policies and Practices section of the report highlighted recommendations to address transparency and accountability within the TUPD, stating that a regular review of policies and practices within the department should be established and made publicly available. The section called for the formal adoption of a bias-free mandate to ensure that all members of the community, regardless of personal identity, are treated justly by the TUPD.

Recommendations were also made toward reforming the complaint and investigation processes of the TUPD, suggesting that complaints should be solicited directly from the community. For investigations, the workstream proposed that a formal and impartial process be formed in conjunction with Human Resources, the Office of Equal Opportunity and other administrative groups.

With the Training, Education, and Communication section of the report, the workstream recommended that the Department of Public Safety expand its training program to increase the quality and number of trainings conducted each year. 

Specifically, the workstream suggested that training be conducted in cooperation with third parties not involved with law enforcement. Proposed curricula included trainings that address bias-free policing, de-escalation, crisis intervention, diversity and inclusion, mental health and physical and cognitive accessibility.

The final section of the report, Oversight and Accountability, called for the establishment of a permanent Campus Safety Advisory Board. The report suggested that the Board would include students, faculty and staff from all four Tufts campuses. The Board would ensure that the vision and values articulated by the workstream are implemented by the university, facilitate communication between the TUPD and the Tufts community, meet regularly with department leadership and share its work with the community on an annual basis, per the report. 

The workstream met with several groups during its research process to inform its recommendations, including Tufts Action Group, an organization founded by faculty and staff shortly after the killing of George Floyd last summer, according to Keith Maddox, Tufts Action Group Steering Committee member and associate professor of psychology

“The general idea is to start thinking about ways in which … systemic racism has been playing in all facets of society, but particularly at Tufts, and ways to acknowledge and to remediate it,” Maddox said. 

The workstream’s report provided a letter written by Tufts Action Group regarding the organization's demands for the TUPD. In the letter, Tufts Action Group called on the administration and the TUPD to open a dialogue with the community regarding the department’s personnel, training, management and general operations.

The general idea is to start thinking about ways in which … systemic racism has been playing in all facets of society, but particularly at Tufts, and ways to acknowledge and to remediate it.

Keith maddox

The letter listed a series of demands by Tufts Action Group, including calls for the “immediate and permanent disarmament of TUPD,” the implementation of community liaisons to the TUPD, the development of plans to re-assess the budgeting of the TUPDin favor of social alternatives and the transparent sharing of information regarding the TUPD’s training and budget.

Members of Tufts Action Group also created a petition last summer titled “In solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives, we call for Tufts University to Disarm and Defund the TUPD."

“We demand the University cut ties with state and local law enforcement agencies, disarm and defund the Tufts Police Department, and reallocate resources towards collective community safety,” the petition said

A number of Tufts Action Group members assisted in forming the workstream’s recommendations. Hope Freeman, director of the LGBT Center and interim director of the Women’s Center, is on Tufts Action Group’s steering committee as well as the workstream committee. She sought to present alternatives and research on policing. 

“As a [Tufts Action Group] member my goal was to support my colleagues on the committee in recognizing varying approaches to community safety and accountability; restorative justices and transformative justices," Freeman wrote in an email to the Daily. "Students on the committee introduced abolition concepts as we tasked our selves with looking at everything."

Maddox said that, while Tufts Action Group has not yet met to discuss the findings of the workstream, he was personally disappointed that the final report did not include an immediate recommendation to disarm TUPD.

“From the basis of [Tufts Action Group’s] demands it’s pretty clear that the idea of … further study isn’t necessary, and that the idea is that this is a kind of imperative that needs to take place for the institution now,” Maddox said. “It is a little disappointing from a personal standpoint that it’s going to take another 12 months, and that’s just to decide whether to [disarm the TUPD] or not.” 

Tufts Community Union Senate Diversity Officer Mathew Peña said that, while he can only speak for himself and not the entire Tufts community, he was also disappointed by the lack of a decision regarding the arming status of the TUPD. 

“I was a little saddened by the fact that there was no consensus on what we can do with arming police officers,” Peña, a senior, said. “I say that coming from a very heavily policed neighborhood myself.”

Peña, who grew up in Highbridge — a neighborhood in the SouthBronx — said that he personally believes the presence of armed police officers, especially for routine services and well-being checks, can be threatening.

“I’ve been going through metal detectors [at school] since I was in sixth grade, and I had thought college would be that bit of escape from policing,” Peña said. “It also brings my nerves up whenever I see officers because that’s what I know them for … they're there to completely define and enforce things … that's just what I've been raised with.”

In his Feb. 17 email to the Tufts community, Monaco noted that some members of the community may be unsatisfied with the initiatives proposed by the workstreams.

“Some community members may be dissatisfied by these reports viewing them as falling short, and others may disagree on the best way to achieve our stated purpose,” Monaco said. “We should not shy away from these tensions. Respectful discourse and debate are the hallmarks of a thriving academic community. Tufts should be at the forefront of dialogue on such a vital and imperative initiative.”

Howard said that the arming status of TUPD officers responding to routine services will be revisited once a new leader of the Department of Campus Safety is hired. 

We should not shy away from these tensions. Respectful discourse and debate are the hallmarks of a thriving academic community. Tufts should be at the forefront of dialogue on such a vital and imperative initiative.

anthony monaco

Peña emphasized the importance of community involvement as the university moves forward with the implementation of recommendations. 

“We’re doing this for a community, so it only makes sense that you invite as many voices as possible,” Peña said. “I also definitely do believe that the most marginalized and the most heavily policed groups, like people from where I come from, should be very integral to this conversation.” 

According to Rob Mack, associate provost and chief diversity officer for the Medford/Somerville and SMFA campuses, decisions on whether recommendations will be implemented by the university have not been finalized. Mack said that the timeline and goals for implementation will be made transparent, and plans to further engage with the Tufts community in discussion on campus policing and safety. 

“This has been and needs to be a community effort,” Mack wrote in an email to the Daily. “We will continue to welcome input and ideas from community members as we begin to bring these recommendations to life.”