Photo Credits: LUIS LOPEZ / AGGIE
SR #10 fails 6-5 in Senate, leads to continuing discussion about disarmament
The ASUCD Senate meeting on April 11 drew a larger-than-usual crowd. The controversial topic of police disarmament was put up for debate, specifically in the form of SR #10: an ASUCD resolution urging the Administration of UC Davis to disarm campus police for the betterment of the University community and the safety of LGBTQ+, disabled and students of color, and especially those that occupy multiple positions of precarity.
The resolution was discussed for over three hours and failed to pass in a 6-5 vote.
Several senators who voted against the bill attributed their issues to the wording of the resolution, not its actual content. Authors of the resolution plan to rewrite the legislation and bring it back to the table.
Blu Buchanan, a seventh-year sociology Ph.D. candidate, authored SR #10 along with members of the Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Commission with the hope that it would put a stop to police brutality and create a safe space for all students on the UC Davis campus.
“University police officers frequently do violence to people of color, folks with disabilities and queer and trans folks on our campuses,” Buchanan said. “We really tried to hone in on […] a particular way that we could make our campuses safer.”
The solution discussed was the disarmament of campus police. Buchanan argued that instead of making students feel safer, the presence of armed police can actually have the opposite effect for a significant portion of the student body.
Buchanan cited the “Picnic Day Five” and the pepper spray incident as two main instances where the threat of lethal force was visible on or around campus. These events occurred in 2017 and 2011, respectively. UC Davis Police Chief Joseph Farrow noted, however, that the “Picnic Day Five” incident was an issue handled by the Davis Police Department, not the UC Davis Police.
Though there haven’t been any recent newsworthy reports of discrimination, Buchanan continued, this does not mean it is not happening. Buchanan referenced black and brown students being removed from the 24-hour study room, saying that often times, events like these will either remain unreported or not gain enough circulation.
Talking about the Senate meeting where their resolution failed, Buchanan referenced two students in the audience who openly opposed SR #10. Cody Bynes, a fourth-year political science major, was one of the individuals Buchanan named.
Bynes, a Marine Corps veteran, is passionate about safety and felt particularly compelled to attend the meeting. He feared there wouldn’t be sufficient opposition otherwise, and that the bill would have passed.
“I don’t speak up about much, but when it comes to safety, I feel particularly passionate,” Bynes said. “It’s just always been in my nature, especially from being able to see it firsthand in the military, but this really just struck a nerve. I cancelled all my plans that night just so I could go and sit there for three, three and a half hours arguing with the opposing narratives.”
Bynes’ viewpoint contrasts sharply against Buchanan’s. He felt that the presence of armed police on campus is necessary for student safety, illustrating this need in terms of an active shooter on campus.
“Disarming the police is disarming the means to protect students in a worst-case scenario,” Bynes said. “Following Officer Corona […] if that shooter had wandered on campus, then the students that had been on lockdown inside of the classrooms — if we hadn’t pinpointed where the shooter was — he could’ve easily shot at students […] it’s one of those things where if we take away the police’s means to defend students and also defend themselves, why is that productive?”
He made clear that his intention was not to discredit gun violence, but rather to speak out over concerns for students’ security.
Buchanan’s motivation for writing the bill extended beyond just their opposition against officers being armed on campus. They also referenced the option of the 1033 program, which permits the transfer of excess supplies and equipment from the US Department of Defense to state and local law enforcement agencies.
“We realized that it was growing especially urgent to deal with the question of campus police violence when we realized that the 1033 program, a program that funnels military equipment and weaponry to local police departments, was also affecting university police as well,” Buchanan said.
This program, Buchanan claimed, is both unnecessary and also allows the police to view students and the community as enemy combatants. The best way to intervene, Buchanan insisted, is to disarm them.
Farrow, however, made it clear that he has no plans to take advantage of this program.
“The university can get surplus military stuff […] but we don’t have any of that,” Farrow said. “We don’t have any military stuff from [the government], we aren’t going to do that. In fact, if you look at our department, we’re trying to minimize that type [of weaponry].”
He continued, expressing his hope that the UC Davis police department will someday be judged as a separate entity, away from the incidents of police brutality that happen away from Davis’ campus. It is unfair, he continued, for his police department to be criticized for these national instances because they should only be held responsible for their own actions — especially considering it has been a couple years since the department has used any type of force.
“It’s important to understand that here on this campus, we just want people to judge us,” Farrow said. “I can’t do anything about what happened in Sacramento, or in Ferguson or with Eric Garner in New York. I see these things, just like you do, but I have no control over any of that.”
When asked whether or not he was relieved the resolution failed, Farrow paused and took a moment to consider.
“I don’t know if I’m a good person to judge, you know, ‘Are you happy it failed or are you unhappy?’” Farrow said. “I don’t think that matters to me. I think what matters to me is that they engaged me in the conversation. They allowed me to be there, they were very respectful. They treated me very nice, and even though my opinion was different, it was a good, good conversation.”
Farrow stressed that regardless of the vote, the most important part of the evening was bringing awareness to all perspectives of the debate.
He posed a hypothetical — at the end of the day, would students feel safer with or without an armed police department? He framed this question in terms of an active shooter presence on campus, and left it up for the students to decide.
“We are police officers in statute,” Farrow said. “When you start talking about disarming police departments, that’s a big deal. That’s a really, really big deal, because basically what you’d be doing is disbanding a police department. We wouldn’t be police officers anymore — I guess we’d be […] security guards. That changes the level of your protection.”
Written by: Claire Dodd — firstname.lastname@example.org