Why Do Students Not Want to be Bothered by Public Safety

Aisja Cunningham

LINCOLN UNIVERSITY- Public Safety is present to ensure the safety and protection of Lincoln University’s campus. However, black students do not view police officers in general as their protectors; they view them as someone who harasses and criminalizes them.

According to Lincoln University’s website, its main campus is patrolled by armed, sworn Police Officers commissioned by the Pennsylvania Municipal Police Officers Education & Training Commission. The Department of Public Safety provides services of prevention, detection, and investigation of criminal and non-criminal incidents.

As a historically black institution, we must acknowledge the social justice issue that black millennials have with police presence as it relates to our university. Due to their treatment within society, it is common for black people to have an underlying fear or animosity towards police officials. This attitude stems from the race relations in the United States in which minorities are more likely to face brutality, harassment, and criminalization from police officials. BBC News reports, “Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police in the United States than white people. More unarmed black people were killed by police than unarmed white people last year. And that’s taking into account the fact that black people are only 14 percent of the population here.”

The perception black students have on police officials derives from personal experiences of stop and frisk policies, previous arrests, the higher risk of criminalization, and the awareness of the high statistics of deaths caused by police officials. Johnny C. Whitehead, the former director of public safety, has acknowledged this fear and distrust black students may have of police officers and stated back in September, “We are aware and are sensitive to that and are looking at what we can do in terms of training so that we can respond better to situations. This is my fifth week so there are a lot of opportunities for training and we are looking for more opportunities to engage the campus more. We are looking for opportunities to engage the community. We’re looking at changing the way we train.” Whitehead mentions that he wants to implicate de-escalation training on the campus, “so that we are conscious of our own biases and the perceptions that we have of people and the perceptions people have on us.” It is a step that he believes will ease previous tension between students and public safety, along with mutual respect for one another.

Since then, there has yet to be any implications of de-escalation training on the campus. Marc R. Partee has been appointed the new director of Lincoln University’s Department of Public Safety, effective February 1.

There is a perception of police officers often endangering civilian lives rather than them safe, and that is a major issue within American society. Until police officers across the United States are all skilled in de-escalation training, until all police stop holding racial biases towards people of color, and until all police are held accountable for their heinous actions, black people cannot rightfully trust police officers. It is inevitable for people to have distrust and animosity towards police officials when there are so many instances of police brutality in which they beat, harass, and murder unarmed civilians.

Police brutality and harassment towards African Americans is an issue embedded within American society. “Equality under the law in America is a myth. The American legal system and society are never colorblind,” Dr. Chieke Ihejirika, the chair Pan Africana Studies states, “It’s biased against black people.”As the first historically black university, the campus should be a safe space in which black students should not have to worry about being stereotyped, harassed, and criminalized by officers. We are not criminals. We are students. We are future college graduates headed for greatness. As we continue the school year, we strive to receive this safe space.

Here at Lincoln University, we hope to see our officers treat our students and staff with mutual dignity and respect. We hope to see de-escalation training implemented for campus police. We aim to hold our officers accountable because the first steps to achieving social justice can start on our campus.

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