Guest: Disband the UC Davis police force now

Guest: Disband the UC Davis police force now

Photo Credits: CAITLYN SAMPLEY / AGGIE FILE

UC Davis faculty members call on the chancellor, administration to disband campus police, dissociate from other law enforcement agencies  

Dear Chancellor May and the administration of University of California Davis,

We, the undersigned faculty, call for the abolition of the UC Davis police force, the ending of all contracts between UC Davis and local, county and state police, and private security organizations and the replacement of policing with anti-carceral forms of accountability, including restorative and transformative justice and community-led public safety.

In the wake of further police murders of Black people — we name George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and Ahmaud Arbery as the mere beginning of a list — we recognize that the increasingly mainstream calls in recent weeks to end racialized policing can only be met with an end to policing itself. The path of reform has been long and led nowhere. Indeed, despite reforms banning the use of violent techniques in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and many other cities, violence perpetrated against communities of color by police has continued unabated. Campus policing strikes us as the most effective place to begin this larger project of abolition. The presence of increasingly militarized police on campus represents an even more gratuitous commitment to violence than does policing in general. Their intrinsically violent and intransigently racist presence actively undermines the ideals and expectations of community and mutual support that should characterize college campuses. 

To those who cannot imagine a university without police: this is a true failure of imagination, and a provincial one. The U.S. is one of the only nations to employ and normalize armed police on college campuses while freedom from policing on campus is the global norm, one that a campus committed to a global role must emulate. To those who would conjure the sorts of threats that purportedly necessitate police presence, we note for example that “active shooter” events are more common on campuses with police forces than without and police themselves admit they cannot arrive in time to prevent harm; meanwhile, statistics show police are far more likely than civilians to be the source of sexual misconduct and domestic violence. Their very presence makes the campus unsafe for untold numbers. For far too many, they exist as a threat. Events on our own campus demonstrate the harm that police do. In 2017, plainclothes police officers assaulted five Black students during Picnic Day celebrations. In 2019, members of the ASUCD Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Commission were subjected to harassment and death threats after rightly pointing out that the “Thin Blue Line” flag is a racist symbol following the death of Officer Natalie Corona. The global community recalls the brutal pepper-spraying of seated students in 2011.

Incidents like these are not unfortunate aberrations; they are a result of the core functions of policing. And if police presence renders anyone unsafe or unfree on a college campus — which it demonstrably does — then no one is truly free or safe on a campus until the police are gone. Students, staff and faculty of color — particularly Black, Latinx and Native members of the UCD community you have pledged to serve — are terrorized by any police presence at UC Davis. As UC Davis leadership serving an increasingly diverse population, you are now presented with an opportunity to transform the role of higher education in California — to move beyond declarations of feeling toward action that may end the pandemic of anti-Blackness in this country. 

  We believe it important to clarify in our demands that we advocate not for reform, nor for a goal of reduction in either numbers or areas of responsibility, nor for defunding a force that would continue to exist in some capacity. We follow the lead of Black activist organizations who have long called for an end to an institution that was established to violently enforce white supremacist property rights and insure differential citizenship

We demand that UC Davis: 

  1. End its relationship with the City of Davis Police Department and other county, state and federal police departments and security agencies, including but not limited to the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE). As part of this demand, we want a public accounting of all existing contracts, memoranda of understanding and other agreements with such agencies.
  2. Dismantle and cease all funding of the UCPD and replace it with anti-carceral forms of accountability, including restorative and transformative justice and community-led public safety. We also want to have a comprehensive report on the staffing, funding and activities of the UCPD in terms of arrests, detentions and investigatory activities. Presently, UCPD’s operations and the impact of it on people of color, and particularly Black people in all UC communities, are often obscured or known only to those who have suffered its effects.
  3. Drop any strike and demonstration-related student conduct charges on this campus that resulted from Black Lives Matter or UC4Cola protests.
  4. Redirect the resources from policing toward racial and gender justice teaching, research and community initiatives as well as increased material support for Black faculty (this includes resources for increased hiring and retention), staff, students and workers on campus. The plan for the redirection of both immediate and ongoing resources should be developed by faculty experts in the field of Black and ethnic studies on campus as well as by students, staff, workers and organizations representing surrounding communities of color affected by the presence of UC Davis (as in the case of the Aggie Square development with its inevitable gentrifying effects and consequent intensification of policing). 

There is no reason why UC Davis cannot make these commitments immediately. The time for temporizing and task forces is past. The University of Minnesota cut ties and severed contracts with the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) a day after the death of George Floyd. The Minneapolis public school system did the same less than a week after. And the Minneapolis City Council pledged to disband the MPD, stating that it was time to “end policing as we know it, and to re-create systems of public safety that actually keep us safe.” These decisions are informed by many decades of research and analysis by national experts and abolitionist organizations, including Critical Resistance, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and many more. We urge UC Davis to uphold its stated commitments to the valuing of Black lives by doing the same and by doing so promptly. We ask that you respond to these demands before June 19, the Juneteenth celebration of the end of slavery in the U.S. — an occasion to which we have not yet been adequate. Now is the time.

Initial Signatories:

Moradewun Adejunmobi (African and African American Studies)

Lishan AZ (Cinema & Digital Media)

Stephanie Boluk (Cinema & Digital Media and English)

Travis Bradley (Spanish & Portuguese)

Seeta Chaganti (English)

Orly Clerge (Sociology)

Joshua Clover (English and Comparative Literature)

Ofelia Cuevas (Chicana/Chicano Studies)

Omnia El Shakry (History and MESA)

Erin Gray (English)

Kris Fallon (Cinema & Digital Media)

Jeff Fort (French & Italian)

Kathleen Frederickson (English)

Noah Guynn (French & Italian and Comparative Literature)

Milmon Harrison (African and African American Studies)

Mark Jerng (English)

Richard Kim (Asian American Studies)

Erica Kohl-Arenas (American Studies)

Patrick LeMieux (Cinema & Digital Media)

Tim Lenoir (Cinema & Digital Media and STS)

Justin Leroy (History)

Sunaina Maira (Asian American Studies and MESA)

Susette Min (Asian American Studies)

Fiamma Montezemolo (Cinema & Digital Media)

Bettina Ng’weno (African & African American Studies)

Robyn Rodiguez (Asian American Studies)

Carey Seal (Classics)

Grace Wang (American Studies)

Toby Warner (French & Italian)

Elisa Joy White (African and African American Studies)

Julie Wyman (Cinema and Digital Media)

All faculty of any rank, including lecturers and visitors, are welcome to sign; please contact jclover@ucdavis.edu or schaganti@ucdavis.edu for a link to the signature page. 

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7 Comments on this Post

  1. “In 2019, members of the ASUCD Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Commission were subjected to harassment and death threats after rightly pointing out that the “Thin Blue Line” flag is a racist symbol following the death of Officer Natalie Corona.”
    I remember that incident very well. A nut job was on the loose and shot dead a young police officer. Afterwards, the ASUCD had the audacity to make a post about how all the police sirens are “triggering” people and that the police are racist. Meanwhile, police are risking their lives looking for this nutcase. Total disrespect from the ASUCD towards a young police officer who wanted to better her community. Put a bunch of useless pretentious students into a room and you got yourself an Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Commission meeting.

  2. Dunlop

    Sheltered academics making completely implausible proposals, totally oblivious to just how absurd the proposals are because they have limited experience in, and are totally isolated from, the real world? Shocking!

    • ballerscience

      But if policing is absurd, why shouldn’t proposals of equal ambition counter it?

    • You’re the sheltered one—also small-minded, unimaginative. Many of these people grew up poor; some have spent years living in third-world countries. Some have spent time in jail for their actions against injustice. They know the real world better than you do, whoever you are.

    • Are you really claiming that academics who have made studying social structures and their outcomes their lives’ work, participated in conferences around these topics, written books and papers and had them peer reviewed on these topics ‘limited (in) experience’ or ‘totally isolated from the real world’? It sounds more like you’re extremely uncomfortable with change and are doing anything in your power to invalidate a well executed letter, anything to insulate you from interrogating your own beliefs. I get that it’s uncomfortable, but maybe knee-jerk write-offs aren’t the best way to approach new ideas? Just because something has been institutionalized for hundreds of years doesn’t make it the only solution.

    • Erik Burman

      No. The shocking thing is that I continue to pay for my daughter to go to UCDavis. Fuck me.

      • Andreas Araiza

        It’s a shocker to me just how much the UC system is ripping people off too, funding their administrative bloat and financial investments in Third World countries while poor people like you pay through the nose! You all should tuition strike and help bring us towards the free public education that students deserve!

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