Chancellor Gary S. May this week commented further on his formation of the Next Generation Reforms to Advance Campus Safety Task Force, saying “we have today an opportunity for significant and truly meaningful change, and that we must seize it.”
The opportunity arose out of nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, another in a long line of Black men and women dying at the hands of police or while in police custody, as was the case with Floyd, who died after an officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds.
“The history and persistence of racism, and especially anti-Black racism, touches me deeply and personally,” the chancellor said. “I have reflected publicly and repeatedly on the history of police violence in the United States directed disproportionately at marginalized populations, especially African Americans, and of the understandable fear so many of us live with.”
May grew up less than two miles from Ferguson, Missouri, where police killed Michael Brown in 2014. “I clearly understand” policing is among several critical institutions, including the justice and penal systems, “that have perpetuated and continue to perpetuate systemic racism in the United States.”
Seeking common ground
In announcing the new task force June 11, he said he had called upon the members — students, staff and faculty — to gather a diversity of viewpoints, by reaching out to members of the campus community who represent the most critical views of policing, as well as those who have positive associations.
“We must hear from people with a variety of opinions to develop common ground on which to build.”
Following up this week, the chancellor said the task force “will engage in serious reflection, taking into account a broad range of views ... and deliver recommendations for action.”
“The creation and charging of a task force is not the end in itself but a first step,” he said. “Every task force that has been formed under my administration (e.g., housing, food insecurity, mental health) has resulted in substantive recommendations that have been adopted.”
Sees UC Davis as model
He said people may be surprised as to the degree to which he is open to “significant, even radical reimagining of ‘campus safety,’ to cite the phrase chosen carefully for the name of the task force.”
He cited one reality of which he is very mindful: that UC Davis is part of a larger system, “and there are certain changes we cannot make independently.”
Instead, he said, he wants UC Davis to model and then drive significant change across the UC system, “and we will continue to push the boundaries,’ citing these examples:
- Constituting the first Police Accountability Board for a UC campus (perhaps any university campus in the U.S.)
- Creating a cadet program that has brought many diverse UC Davis graduates into our ranks so that they can embody our shared community values
- Supporting and collaborating with the Yolo County Neighborhood Court Restorative Justice Programs
“These are just a few of the innovative ways in which UC Davis is moving in what I feel is the right direction,” the chancellor said. “Indeed, I want us to go much further, as does Chief Farrow.”
Campus Police Chief Joe Farrow added: “The future of policing will be partially defined by our campus. I believe we are on a path of change and healing, which I fully embrace.”
Chancellor May said: “Enacting what the task force will recommend and advocating for change across the UC system, and with the state Legislature especially, which, in some areas, frankly, sometimes holds us back, is in my view the only way to make for real change that would ensure the safety of our community.”
On campus and beyond
The mission extends beyond the campus, May said, noting that faculty, students and staff and their families and friends live and work in Davis, Sacramento and surrounding communities. “Until we change policing across the region, state and nation, we will not have achieved what we need,” he said.
May said abolishing the campus Police Department, as some people have called for, “would be a nationally visible gesture but not necessarily a constructive or complete one. At the end of the day, no matter what we do, someone will still need to respond to a report of theft on campus. Even municipalities that have ostensibly taken such steps have wound up reforming and re-creating policing in models similar to our own current trajectory.”
“I am deeply convinced that the pathway on which we are now embarked is the right one: of imagining new forms of public safety, far beyond policing and into realms of social work and mental health ... and then engaging through dialogue with other UC campuses and other jurisdictions across California and beyond to advocate for the universal adoption of these practices.”
The task force, co-chaired by Renetta Garrison Tull, vice chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Kevin Johnson, dean of the School of Law, is scheduled to convene for the first time in late July. The chancellor has asked for recommendations by Dec. 15.