Update 5/2/2019: This article has been updated to reflect additional information from Maureen Simmons.
UCPD is considering restriping a parking lot near Upper Hearst in an effort to move some of its patrol cars from the current parking area on Barrow Lane.
On April 5, internal chair of ASUC Police Oversight Commission Maureen Simmons, Black Student Union internal vice president Leonard Irving-Thomas and executive member of Students United for Reproductive Justice Noel Jones met with Chancellor Christ and Vice Chancellor Marc Fisher, after which Christ agreed to move the patrol cars from Barrows Lane to the Upper Hearst lot.
“During my first semester, it was clear to me that African American students, in particular, had a very poor relationship with UCPD,” Simmons said in an email. “The location of UCPD and the patrol cars worsened the already strained relationship and reinforced the idea of us versus them.”
According to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore, UCPD is in the very early stages of assessing the parking of patrol cars. The assessment for this proposal includes discussions with colleagues on campus, according to Gilmore. Rachel Roberson, the Graduate Assembly representative of the UC Berkeley Police Review Board, said she felt that Fisher and UCPD police chief Margo Bennett “took the concern seriously” based off of these efforts.
ASUC Senator Amir Wright said this initiative is important because the patrol cars currently parked along Barrow Lane sit next to the Fannie Lou Hamer Black Resource Center, and they could potentially create an unwelcoming atmosphere for Black students who pass by on a daily basis.
“It’s not hard to imagine the community feeling uncomfortable with the police presence on campus and students often not knowing if they can feel safe on their own campus,” Wright said. “It’s ironic that the police department is meant to protect students and make the students feel safe, but oftentimes for certain vulnerable communities, it has the opposite effect.”
Both Simmons and the Police Oversight Commission had a heavy hand in leading and beginning the initiative, according to executive member of Student’s United for Reproductive Justice Noel Jones.
Wright added that student advisory boards and training for police officers are necessary to improve the relationship between communities of color and the UCPD.
“Healing and reconciliation between historically marginalized and overpoliced communities and UCPD is a step in the right direction,” Roberson said. “It’s important to create a platform for those students who have been impacted by policing both on campus and prior to authentically be able to tell their stories and seek community with each other.”
If the proposal is approved, Wright said it is likely that a majority of vehicles will be moved to the lot near Upper Hearst, but some rapid response vehicles will be kept in place at the intersection of Barrow Lane and Bancroft Way.
“People are coming into this university with different levels of comfort and interactions with the police department, and they need to understand that and treat students as such,” Wright said. “We don’t need students who are students of color predominantly being treated disproportionately as their peers on campus.”