Demonstrators marching at the Defund HSU PD protest on Sept. 4 | Photo by Walker B. True

Defund HSU’s Police Department

Incidents of racism from the former UPD Chief, past examples of excessive force from current officers and a shrinking university budget.
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Incidents of racism from the former UPD Chief, past examples of excessive force from current officers and a shrinking university budget.

In recent months, demonstrations against police brutality and the killing of Black and Brown people have increased. Black Lives Matter protestors have called not only for the demilitarization of police but for a move towards defunding the police and reinvesting those funds to community-centered organizations for public safety.

On Sept. 4, Humboldt State University students and other community members met at the Arcata Plaza in support of defunding HSU’s campus police department. As of last quarter, HSU’s University Police budget sits at over 3 million dollars a year. The University Library sits just below 3.5 million dollars a year.

According to the HSU’s Annual Security Report for 2018, 89 percent of law enforcement on campus consists of drug and alcohol referrals. UPD made a single drug-related arrest in 2018. The other 11 percent of cases reported were theft and assault. Referrals are basically reports filed directly to HSU that are not criminal but often result in administrative action. This job is something expected of R.A.’s who report alcohol use as referrals.

Incidents of racism from the former UPD Chief, past examples of excessive force from current officers and a shrinking university budget

With the existence of the Arcata City Police, and their own $6 million dollar budget, the necessity of an entire force for these offenses leaves the HSUPD as an utter redundancy.

HSU student and Check-It staff member, Shelley Magallanes, compiled research about complaints against HSUPD for use of excessive force and shared it on their Instagram. Currently on the payroll is Delmar Tompkins who has been involved in two accusations of police brutality, cases were settled for $135,000 and $43,000. As well as Justin Winkle who was involved in an incident of excessive force that left the victim dead in his jail cell hours later. The City of Eureka settled this case for $4.5 million.

Former University police Chief Donn Peterson resigned on May 31 while he was on leave and under fire from a multitude of accusations including racist remarks and manipulation of crime statistics. Peterson served as police chief of UPD for six years and to assume that his actions are that of “one bad apple” just doesn’t do this issue justice. His actions exemplify the prevalence of a racist culture that pervades the criminal justice system.

The nationwide movement for defunding the police has been sparked by the way that force is used and applied recklessly to BIPOC. This comes after a long history of police operating as a militant arm of white supremacy and working to disproportionately incarcerate POC, leading to further widespread racial inequities. Allowing the persistence of unjust systems on campus, while alternatives are proven to work more effectively at promoting public safety is negligent. We have an opportunity to work towards a more just and equitable campus through the many organizations that we already have established.

HSU is facing widespread budget cuts, losing funding to the array of vital multicultural centers, diverse academic programs and student-led organizations, the UPD budget and existence looks especially obsolete.

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