A coalition of UC faculty, students, activists and community members launched a campaign Tuesday through multiple social media platforms to remove police across all UC campuses by Sept. 1, 2021.
The group is a coalition within a coalition, the result of a merger of various groups including UCFTP, Cops Off Campus and the student-led No UCPD Coalition. Inspired by the cost-of-living adjustment movement, the coalition initially formed in 2019 and spent about six months organizing to launch its campaign.
“We’re not just organizing in a closed circuit sense with people who are on specific campuses, but we also acknowledge not just the university but university-impacted spaces,” said SA Smythe, a coordinating member of the UCFTP and Cops Off Campus coalitions and assistant professor at UCLA. “We’re absolutely trying to be not just attentive as individuals in this specific struggle here but working very closely with other Black, Indigenous, people of color, queer people, trans people, people with disabilities who are university-impacted.”
Smythe added that the coalition wants the public to focus on the campaign as a global movement, with the goal of abolishing the police rather than simply defunding the institution. While the campaign is centered on the abolition of police, it also seeks to empower the public.
With the expansion of the national Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality, concerns about police reform and abolishment have been brought up to the UC system. These concerns have also been localized on the UC Berkeley campus, as new reforms and policies are being considered for UCPD in order to create public safety alternatives and reduce the need for law enforcement on campus.
Kendra Levine, co-chair of University Council-American Federation of Teachers Local 1474 Berkeley-SF, said as a union, its members recognize the need to address these issues and believe students should be “prioritized over policing,” redirecting resources to alternative methods to support the community.
The UC system will continue to focus on creating a safer campus community, said UC Office of the President spokesperson Stett Holbrook in an email.
“We recognize and empathize with the sentiment behind calls to defund or disband police departments at UC and across the country, which reflect the rightful call for increased scrutiny of officer misconduct and abuses,” Holbrook said in the email.
In 2018, former UC president Janet Napolitano convened a task force to examine UCPD investigative practices, use of force-related policies, training and the use of campus police advisory boards, according to Holbrook. After accepting the task force’s recommendations, the UC system continues to rely on campus police departments with officers held to a systemwide use-of-force policy.
Smythe said while there are many examples of the establishment of task forces, advisory committees and the reforming of police, the public needs resources and not the police.
“What we want are public reparative goods like housing, education and health care, and what we do not want is the police,” Smythe said. “We’re saying we don’t actually want the police to be shielded from accountability by the presence of an advisory committee, we don’t want citizen advisors of the police, we want no police.”
A previous version of this article misquoted SA Smythe as saying, “We’re saying we don’t actually want the police to be fielded from accountability by the presence of an advisory committee (…).” In fact, Smythe said, “We’re saying we don’t actually want the police to be shielded from accountability by the presence of an advisory committee (…).”