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November 15, 2013

UCPD Q&A draws large activist crowd

UCPD Police Chief Marlon Lynch addressed concerns of racial profiling and transparency in an SG-hosted forum Wednesday in McCormick Tribune Lounge.

More than 100 people attended, with many in the audience affiliated with Southside Solidarity Network’s Coalition for Equitable Policing.

Lynch, along with top police administrators, led a presentation about the UCPD before answering the five most popular questions submitted in advance, as well as live questions. Four of the five questions submitted in advance pertained to allegations of racial profiling and the fifth pertained to policy transparency.

Lynch denied that the UCPD treats residents of the community differently than it treats University-affiliated students.

“What I’m hearing from you is your preference would be we spend our time writing and arresting students for smoking weed and drinking in public rather than dealing with potentially off-campus situations where there may be more serious violence taking place,” he said.

Lynch, who is black, also asserted his position against racial profiling, tying it to his personal experiences.

“Do I approve of [racial profiling]? No. I grew up on the South Side of the city, stopped numerous times, just because. I don’t condone it. One of the reasons I became a police officer was to have the ability to have a positive impact on it to prevent it,” he said.

In response to questions about the lack of public release of UCPD records, Lynch noted that UCPD, as a private force that is part of UChicago, follows UChicago’s policies. “The University’s policy is to not release records because it is not required to do so,” he said.

Assistant Police Chief Gloria Graham said that the UCPD's policy of not making contact cards—in which officers describe the circumstances of a police encounter—public is not unique to the University. Graham said that similar police forces with a similar accreditation level as the University’s also do not released contact cards to the public. The CPD releases contact cards only with a Freedom of Information Act request, according to Graham.

In his presentation, Lynch explained UCPD’s transition to being a full-service force, which encompasses processing arrestees like public forces.

“We have the same police authority as the police in the city you grew up in. Basically we have the exact same authority as the Chicago police officers,” he said.

Lynch also noted the makeup of the UCPD’s approximately 100 police officers: 74 percent identify as non-Caucasian and 22 percent are women. Beyond administrative and technical training, officers must also have bachelor’s degrees and state police certification.

Many students in attendance wore stickers  distributed by the Coalition for Equitable Policing that read, “I stand against racial profiling.” The Coalition stood at the doors passing out packets that included a factsheet, student testimonials, the top-voted pre-submitted questions, and a flyer about an upcoming march advocating for a trauma center.

Third-year Ava Benezra was one of the creators of the Coalition for Equitable Policing’s packet. “I think an informed discussion is always better than one that’s going off assumptions or vague ideas,” she said.

UCPD Deputy Chiefs Kevin Booker and Mike Kwiatkowski presented on the complaint process and patrolling respectively. Vice President of Campus Life and Student Services Karen Warren Coleman and Dean of Students in the University Michele Rasmussen were also in attendance.

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