Report and Recommendations of the Student Government Subcommittee Concerning the Independent Review Committee of the UCPD (IRC)

This committee was convened after Toussaint Losier, ninth year PhD student in History, was rejected by Campus and Student Life (CSL) administrators from serving on the Independent Review Committee of the UCPD after Student Government recommended him for the position. A ranked list of alternate recommendations was sent to CSL instead, two of whom ultimately were seated on the IRC.

The Student Government Executive Slate recommended Losier because of his demonstrated commitment to racial justice in policing, particularly on the University of Chicago campus. As among other distinctions, Losier served on an ad hoc committee convened after the controversial arrest of black undergraduate student Maurice Dawson, which made key recommendations concerning the Dean on Call program. According to administrators, Losier was rejected to serve on the IRC because he could not appear “impartial,” an impression created because in January 2013 Losier was arrested by the UCPD at a protest, although he was ultimately cleared of wrongdoing.

This committee had three meetings over autumn and winter quarters. It met with administrators from Campus and Student Life to learn about the history of the IRC, its mission, and was in contact with the Provost’s office by email.

The charge of this committee was as follows:

1) to consider whether “partiality” ought to be a criteria that Student Government uses to eliminate student candidates for appointment to the Independent Review Committee of the UCPD, or whether candidates should be judged based on their articulated philosophy about policing and the review of police; and

2) to examine whether Campus and Student Life administrators should have veto power over Student Government recommendations to the IRC, or whether the process is adequate and should remain in place as it is currently.

The charge of the IRC is appended to this document.

Committee findings:

Despite the criteria of impartially or appearance thereof used by the Provost's office, when making recommendations SG should be attentive to the awareness and commitment of applicants to the IRC around issues of social justice in policing, such as discrimination and sexual harassment by officers toward community members and students of color. Demands both for safety and social equality must be balanced (and are not necessarily in tension), and the student body has repeatedly expressed collective concern over how campus safety is pursued at the expense of the later. Therefore, when exercising its (limited) discretion over IRC placements, the recommendations SG makes, as a body charged with representing students, should reflect the demands of the student body for a balanced approach by recommending students with a well-defined grasp of both these priorities and that posses specific knowledge related to policing.

Second, while this subcommittee recognizes the prerogative of the Provost's office in ultimately deciding who sits on the IRC, it is somewhat concerning to us that the student body is not allowed un-mediated access through the direct placement of students on the committee by their democratically elected student representatives (Student Government). The placement of multiple layers of administrative discretion potentially exercised between SG recommendations and the actual placement of students on the IRC carries the possibility of, such as in the case of Toussaint Losier, superseding the concerns of the Student Association in achieving a balance between safety and issues of social justice.

The authority to police tends to increase the central power of the entity endowed with that authority; in our society, that power is typically reserved for the state. As the UCPD continues to expand both its physical presence and police powers, the University assumes state-like responsibilities, but is not subject to the democratic checks or open-government laws that our society has placed upon public police forces and other governmental entities. Therefore it is up to the University to voluntarily decentralize power and allow for distributed oversight of its police force, by endowing democratic University institutions like Student Government autonomy over student placements to the IRC. This committee believes it is in the long-term self-interest of the University to do so, because a relatively egalitarian atmosphere is essential to the open discourse and public debate that is the foundational value of this institution.

Committee members:

Michael McCown, fourth year History student in the College, Student Government President. Ella Butler, PhD student in Anthropology, Social Sciences representative to Graduate Council. Hannah Chazin, PhD student in Anthropology, member of the Independent Review Committee of the UCPD.

Tyler Kissinger, second year Math student in the College, Student Government Liaison to Community and Government.

The charge of the IRC:

The University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) is a professional police force, deputized by the Superintendent of Police of the City of Chicago, with regular police powers while on duty in the areas of Hyde Park, Kenwood, North Kenwood and Woodlawn. Over the years, the University police have performed a valuable service and demonstrated a commitment to the University community and the broader surrounding neighborhoods. From time to time however, complaints have been made about individual incidents or policies. To ensure the campus and community's confidence in the University Police Department is maintained, the Independent Review Committee (IRC) reviews all complaints brought against University police relating directly or indirectly to issues of excessive force, violation of rights, or abusive language. The Committee evaluates actions of UCPD and, when necessary, makes recommendations regarding UCPD's policies and procedures. The Committee reports its findings and recommendations to the Provost and the Vice President for Civic Engagement. A Committee report of all incidents including any recommended changes to policies and procedures is produced annually for the President and is distributed widely throughout the campus and community.