Black community members, UCPD discuss patrol cars on Barrow Lane

Katie Lee/Staff

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For almost a year, UCPD and members of the Fannie Lou Hamer Black Resource Center have been discussing the UCPD patrol car parking area on Barrow Lane.

Since the early 1950s, UCPD has been located in the basement of Sproul Hall and has its vehicles readily accessible on Barrow Lane in case of an emergency, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore.

Since the Fannie Lou Hamer Black Resource Center’s opening in Hearst Field Annex in February 2017, Black community members have expressed discomfort walking past the cars on Barrow Lane when going to the resource center — especially at night, according to ASUC Senator Nicole Anyanwu.

“The general sentiment is that our community has had history with police violence and abuse of power,” said former ASUC senator Amir Wright, who was involved in the discussions with UCPD in 2019. “It doesn’t allow students to feel at peace or at home if they have to pass six cars with automatic rifles just to get to the resource center.”

According to Anyanwu, UCPD patrol cars have guns “strapped” to windows that students can see when walking through Barrow Lane. Seeing the guns can be “very triggering” to students, especially student refugees or those who have experienced police violence, Anyanwu added.

UCPD considered moving some of its patrol cars to a parking lot near Upper Hearst in April 2019. Since first responders need ready access to their cars, they ultimately remained on Barrow Lane.

In fall 2019, UCPD began to park the vehicles at the southern end of Barrow Lane in response to student concerns, according to Gilmore. She added that at this location, trees block the view of the cars from the center’s windows.

Gilmore added that both Vice Chancellor of Administration Marc Fisher and UCPD officials believe there are no suitable alternatives for first responder vehicles, as long as police are located in Sproul Hall.

“Officers need ready access to vehicles in case of emergency,” Gilmore said in an email. “That said, we are mindful of the student’s concerns.”

Many students in the Black community, however, still feel uncomfortable walking past the patrol cars to get to the center, according to Anyanwu. She added that it is “crucial” that community members are comfortable coming to a space where they can get resources and connect with other members.

Anyanwu said she encourages UCPD to look into a long-range development plan to think about the distribution of police presence on campus so it is better able to respond to emergency events.

“I’m worried about how UCPD is centralized on Southside. What about Westside and Northside, especially with the residents in Foothill — it takes a longer time to get there,” Anyanwu said. “Why is there less presence closer to Greek Row, where more controversial activities are happening?”

UCPD is proposing a community engagement plan, which would include a new unit that would be devoted specifically to working with different campus communities, according to an email from UCPD Chief Margo Bennett sent in January. According to the email, the main goal would be to increase two-way communication between UCPD and campus community members.

Anyanwu’s office is currently working on a roundtable discussion with UCPD and stakeholders from marginalized campus communities to discuss issues with policing and campus safety. She added that the discussions are an attempt to find a balance between policing solutions and valid feelings on campus.

“UCPD is trying to work on diversity and inclusion a lot through community engagement,” Anyanwu said. “It’s not the full answer, but it’s good that they are going to get training and it’s a step in the right direction.”

Contact Maria Young at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @maria_myoung.