Do we really need campus police?

Written By Jess Dillon

Last week, Point Park Chief of Police, Jeffrey Besong released a statement to students. This statement came in light of the Derek Chauvin trial, and potential protests to follow the verdict. In this statement, the trial was repeatedly referred to as “the George Floyd case”, which misrepresents the situation. George Floyd is not on trial, he was murdered. Derek Chauvin is on trial for said murder. This, as well as the overall tone of the email, was not received well by Point Park students. 

In his email, Besong stated that, “Our Police Department is working in conjunction with the Pittsburgh City Police Department to prepare for any potential civil unrest and/or potential acts of violence that may occur in the city.” The vagueness of this statement has left many students, myself included, concerned. It remains unclear what the Point Park Police Department will be doing to mitigate violence. It also does not seem necessary for them to take any action at all. Unless people are burning flags in Lawrence Lobby, Point Park Police have no reason to interfere. Administration cannot preach that “the city is our campus” and then try to suppress actions taking place in Pittsburgh. Activists have every right to be angry and to protest, and to suppress this community instead of lifting up the voices of those who have been hurt is a shame. 

University of Pittsburgh students have been using their voices to eliminate cops on campus, and it is high time that Point Park follows suit. Students deserve to feel safe on campus, and the current police department is standing in the way of that. From my research, it seems as though this effort is ongoing and has reached a slight stand-stilll, but that does not mean we cannot try. Point Park’s size and location makes it so having an entire police department is futile. 

Point Park does not make their budget public, but we can assume a decent chunk of it goes towards cops. They strut around campus donning full uniforms and guns on their holster, for what purpose? Our campus is approximately six blocks long, why do they need full SUVs? I feel as though it would make more sense to allocate those funds elsewhere. If the city truly is our campus, then surely the city cops will keep us safe, right? The money saved could then go towards mental health services for students, along with other areas where the cops are currently lacking. It seems unnecessary to have a man in full uniform come unlock my door when I forget my key, when that job could easily be covered by custodial staff (who probably deserve better pay anyway). 

There are very few resources for students who suffer mental health issues. The Counseling Center can be great, but they are only available during the day. If a student were to be in crisis once the center is closed, there are very few places for them to turn for help. The university suggests we turn to hotlines in these situations, but in my experience, they do not do much. It only makes sense to have trained mental health professionals available to students at all hours. Research shows that college students, especially now, are dangerously prone to mental illnesses. University police are not properly trained to handle these types of crisis, leaving students with very few places to turn. Dumping money into our police department is directly harming students. 

Of course, this is much easier said than done. I am not writing this article to air out my grievances, but to propose a call to action. We need to push our administration for more transparency regarding our police budget. Once we know how much money is going to them, we can work together to push for defunding. I do not want to fight this alone, but it is a hill I am willing to die on. We are nearing the end of this school year, which gives us the summer to research ways to better our campus. Protestors deserve to protest. Point Park students deserve to feel safe on campus. It is our job to make these sentiments true.