Stanford’s public safety board will continue to investigate discriminatory policing

July 25, 2022, 11:35 a.m.

The Community Board on Public Safety (CBPS) agreed to further investigate discriminatory policing on campus with a focus on equity and safety at its second annual meeting on Tuesday.

Chief of Stanford’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) Laura Wilson, Riseling Group President and founder Sue Riseling, Executive Director of the Stanford Center for Racial Justice George Brown and Co-Chairs of the CBPS Patrick Dunkley and Claude Steele conferenced on threats that community members face from current police systems. Riseling and Brown spoke on the danger of weaponization and force in the system of policing, and Wilson presented on the relationship between officers and Stanford community members.

The CBPS is required to host at least one public meeting of the board each year for community members and neighbors to hear from and engage with the board about Stanford’s public safety. Established in 2020 shortly after the murder of George Floyd, the board addresses issues involving the safety and quality of life of Stanford community members.  

The CBPS provided updates on activities since its first annual report in July 2021. Since then, Dunkley said the board implemented anti-bias and de-escalation education programs, as well as collaborated with consulting firms to remodel campus safety.

According to Wilson, the DPS shifted its attention “from trying to prevent crime to investigating reported crimes” by decreasing the presence of armed officers. This included minimizing patrols in areas with student housing and reducing enforcement of vehicle and bicycle violations, Wilson said.  

The change has not gone without consequence, Wilson said, as on-campus thefts have been on a rise this year. According to an attendee who voiced their complaints to the co-chairs during the Q&A, break-ins have increased on campus, particularly near Stanford Avenue.

“We’re not quite sure what the community wants from us at this point in time, because it’s hard to stop crime if you’re not out there, contacting people,” Wilson said. She said responses to crime have become more delayed due to reduced police engagement on campus.

According to Riseling, the decline of armed officers in areas with high student activity is an important move to decrease the presence of weapons on campus, which has an associated higher risk of armed violence.

Brown agreed, noting that to build a safe and equitable policing system, police departments should limit usage of weapons as a last resort and introduce training with less focus on force. “Use the minimum amount of force required and ensure that the force will not injure innocent third parties and that the level of force is necessary and proportionate,” he told police departments at the meeting.

The issue of biases in the Stanford policing system was revisited throughout the meeting. Based on the board’s analysis of data collected from 2018 to 2020, Claude reported a pattern of Latinx and African American drivers being disproportionately cited more frequently.

However, Claude said that “most stops are initiated by other members of the Stanford community who call DPS about someone they find suspicious,” with only about 15% of citations initiated by DPS officers. “Most of the stops of African Americans are coming from [non-DPS community members], which makes a larger and important point that with regard to public safety, the entire Stanford community is involved,” Claude said.

While the board was “fiercely focused on” discriminatory policing, a definitive conclusion still can not be drawn, Claude said. “There will be a full report this year, which revisits some of the issues around data and what they tell us about major questions like bias and discrimination and remedies,” he said.

Claude said he hopes to expand the scope of bias and de-escalation training on campus by encouraging community-wide reflection on discriminatory biases.

Cathy Sheng is a high schooler writing as part of The Daily’s Summer Journalism Workshop.

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