An article in today’s Daily reports on a rally that occurred last Thursday demanding that Stanford’s police force be “defunded” and “abolished.”
According to the article, speakers at the rally decried the state of the U.S. prison system, the treatment of Palestinians in Gaza, the training of some police forces by the Israeli military, and an encounter with a California Highway Patrol officer. The article does not recount any complaints that have anything to do with Stanford’s Department of Public Safety.
There’s a reason for that. As former provost, I know SUDPS well. Over the years I have personally witnessed countless encounters between Stanford police officers and Stanford students — both with and without the officers’ knowledge. While it is clear that policing in the United States is in need of serious reform, we could do worse than promulgate the standards and style of SUDPS nationwide. They provide a blueprint of community policing.
The officers who join SUDPS do so for a reason. They are attracted to the educational mission of the University and come to be part of that. They see themselves as guaranteeing a safe environment for all students and assisting in the sometimes-turbulent passage from high school to full adulthood. They perceive their role as a component of the educational process and each of them has intentionally chosen that role over the more swaggering status of big city cop. Our chief of police, herself a Stanford graduate, is as devoted to the Stanford community as anyone on campus.
Stanford does not have to maintain its own police force. Many universities rely on police from surrounding communities, and we could as well. But don’t imagine that this would result in a utopian community with no need for policing. It would simply mean that when police were present on campus, they would be more heavily armed, unfamiliar with the community, and trained to deal with criminals rather than Stanford students.
This is the choice Abolish Stanford would have us make.
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