This week, Students for Quality Education (SQE) and the California Faculty Association (CFA) joined forces to host “teach-ins” addressing issues with on-campus police and promoting their, “No Harm Disarm, Cops Off Campus” campaign.
Electrical engineering senior and member of Cal Poly SQE Alejandro Bupara said SQE has always been intentional in centering concerns and issues of particularly students of color, women of color and queer and trans people of color.
“That’s one of the reasons that we put so much emphasis on abolitionist work, because our communities are among some of the most affected by the violence of policing,” Bupara said.
The trainings, which are pre-recorded videos made by members of SQE nationwide, are intended to increase political education surrounding policing, Bupara said.
The videos include statistics, testimonials and seek to debunk myths surrounding on-campus policing.
“It’s part of a national effort to get cops off campus,” Bupara said.
According to Bupara, police on campus were never intended to keep students and faculty safe, but only to control and uphold the status quo.
“We really want to see investment in real community safety and in measures that we actually need to thrive,” Bupara said.
What this means for members of SQE is divesting from the Cal Poly Police Department (CPPD) and redirecting that money towards mental health counselors, making sure students have their basic needs for food and housing met and having resource centers for marginalized communities on campus.
Black, Latinx, native and AAPI resource centers were a few of the centers Bupara would like to see on campus.
“We know that crime is not A-political, that crime happens when people don’t have their basic needs met, when people don’t have enough to eat, when people don’t have housing, when people don’t have health care,” Bupara said.
A long as Cal Poly decides to position themselves on the side of keeping CPPD and trying to reform them, Bupara said they will be positioning themselves on the wrong side of history.
“They absolutely have a duty to black, brown and indigenous students and faculty and community members and to all students and faculty and community members that are affected by police to listen and to provide us what we need and to provide a future with no police on campus,” Bupara said.
CFA SLO president and history professor Lewis Call said that the teach-ins are part of a broader campaign for racial and social justice, which CFA and SQE have been working on lately.
With the murder of George Floyd and many other Black people by police, Call said that increasingly many Americans feel that policing in the United States suffers from systematic, institutional racism.
“And unfortunately, the same thing seems to be true of campus policing,” Call said.
According to Call, an increasingly militarized police presence on campus has only made faculty, students and staff of color feel more unsafe on campus and at no little cost to the university.
“Increasingly, campus police rely on military weapons and hardware and equipment, which we feel is inappropriate for a police force that’s mainly dealing with faculty staff and students,” Call said.
CFA is currently in contract negotiations with the CSU and created a health and safety proposal to create an alternative to policing; a civilian agency that could respond to non violent criminal issues, Call said.
“Unfortunately CSU management turned down that proposal,” Call said. “We’re not going to give up, we’re going to keep pushing, but it looks like right now they’re not interested in doing that.”
According to University spokesperson Matt Lazier, Cal Poly has no plans to decrease funding to its university police.
In an email to Mustang News, Lazier wrote that the CPPD plays an integral role in maintaining the safety and wellbeing of Cal Poly community members on a daily basis.
This includes, but is not limited to: responding to calls for assistance throughout campus, providing security oversight for major events, working proactively with the university community through crime prevention and personal safety programming and administering training and planning around Cal Poly’s emergency response policies and procedures.
“CPPD is committed to safe policing practices and comprehensive and ongoing training for its police officers, to help ensure that safety services are conducted and delivered professionally, safely, and with dignity, respect and compassion,” Lazier wrote.
Additionally, Lazier said the state of California requires many training requirements, of which CPPD officers are compliant.
According to Lazier, the Chief of Police George Hughes also requires further professional development above and beyond state mandates, in areas such as implicit bias, anti-bias policing and incident de-escalation.
According to history and ethnic studies senior and fellow SQE member Claire Lopez, attempting to retrain current police officers historically has not been successful in the past.
“You can’t reform a structure that again is inherently racist and was created to uphold the status quo,” Lopez said. “We’ve tried reforming it so many times – it doesn’t work so maybe it’s time to try something new and get creative with this situation.”
The beauty of abolition for Lopez is to be creative and see what works on individual campuses.
“Really, what it is, tearing down structures of racism and hate and white supremacy and you’re building structures with love and community and wanting to make a wonderful space for everyone,” Lopez said.
Faculty who are interested in running the program can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Alejandro Bupara’s last name. The article has been updated to reflect proper spelling.