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April 28, 2015

Rally for UCPD transparency held after passage of HB 3932 in the Illinois House

Campaign for Equitable Policing (CEP) members, UChicago Democrats, and community activists rallied to protest the lack of legal transparency mandates applied to the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) this past Friday. The protest followed exactly one hour after the unanimous passage (108–0) of Illinois House Bill (H.B.) 3932, which would require the UCPD and other private campus police forces to follow similar transparency standards that public law enforcement does under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The bill must pass the Illinois Senate and receive Governor Bruce Rauner’s signature before becoming law.

Video: AMBER LOVE/The Chicago Maroon

H.B. 3932 was first introduced on February 27 by House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie and was co-sponsored by Representative Christian Mitchell, whose districts fall within the UCPD’s jurisdiction. The bill proposes to amend the Private College Campus Police Act, which has remained largely unaltered since its passage in 1992. The current act grants campus police at private colleges and universities all the powers of municipal police, including making arrests and regulating traffic, and sets baseline standards of training for hired officers.

The University declined to comment on the bill.

UCPD currently patrols approximately 65,000 residents, 50,000 of whom are not students, with 95 officers. Of the officers, 63 percent are black, 25 percent white, and 12 percent Hispanic.

The passage of the bill was preceded by an official University press release, which stated that the University will make changes that “go beyond the requirements of Illinois law for police forces at private institutions,” which includes records of arrests upon request, background information on how the department fulfills its duties, traffic stops and field contacts by UCPD, and daily online updates detailing stops.

“Today we’re here to demand from the University a more transparent and accountable University police force,” said Alex Ding of CEP during her address to the crowd. “We know exactly what a UCPD that is not accountable or transparent looks like. It looks like a UCPD that we know systematically racially profiles and harasses…with complete impunity.” She states that the University’s proposed changes are not a voluntary act on the part of the University, but rather the result of sustained student, community and electoral pressure.

H.B. 3932 will require disclosure of information and records in the custody or possession of campus police departments that encompasses, but is not limited to, traffic stop and field contact information, arrest reports, and broadcast radio communications among officers.

Yet the CEP noted that there are pitfalls in the recent University announcement, stating that “without a legal mandate, data release remains at the sole discretion of the University. Furthermore, the information the University will provide under today’s measure excludes critical areas of the UCPD’s records.” Finally, the CEP stated that the Independent Review Committee, the UCPD’s primary accountability mechanism, is insufficient, as “all of its members are appointed by the University administration, and its capacity to ‘review’ police misconduct complaints is limited to commenting on internal investigations after they are closed and a final decision has been reached.”

In an e-mailed statement by University spokesperson Jeremy Manier, the University denied racial profiling accusations. “The University of Chicago Police Department does not deploy tactics that support racial profiling.”

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