Tufts Anti-Racism Initiative: Campus Safety and Policing

Hiring a progressive and innovative leader, a community engagement officer, and increasing compositional diversity are among the recommendations
A campus scene at Tufts. Hiring a progressive and innovative leader of the Department of Public Safety, a community engagement officer, and increasing compositional diversity are among the recommendations for Tufts.
“We recognize that there are multiple strategies for addressing the inequities and injustices that occur in the realm of university policing,” said Mike Howard and Rob Mack. Photo: Alonso Nichols
February 17, 2021

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On July 8, 2020, President Anthony Monaco announced the creation of a new strategic initiative aimed at making Tufts an anti-racist institution. As part of this effort, five workstreams were charged with identifying structural racism throughout the university’s academic and administrative enterprise and outlining the steps necessary for eradicating it. 

Following a presentation of their findings and recommendations at a Town Hall for faculty and staff on Feb. 12, Tufts Now spoke with workstream leaders about what they found, what’s been done so far, and what to expect in the next phase of work. 

Tufts Now asked Mike Howard, executive vice president, and Rob Mack, associate provost and chief diversity officer for the Medford/Somerville and SMFA campuses, to share takeaways from the Campus Safety and Policing workstream’s report. The full reports for all five workstreams are available on the Office of the President’s website

Tufts Now: What are the major findings and recommendations of the group?

Mike Howard and Rob Mack: It starts with updating the mission statement to clearly reflect Tufts University Department of Public Safety’s (TUDPS) commitment to ensuring the physical, psychological, and emotional safety of all members of the Tufts community.  

A key component of this effort will be identifying a departmental leader who embodies the progressive and innovative values needed to achieve an anti-racist vision. We also recommend establishing a community engagement officer who will help repair and build trusting relationships with the university community, particularly among groups that have historically had a strained relationship with TUDPS. We are also recommending an increase in the compositional diversity of sworn police officers, non-sworn personal, union and non-union employees, and staff, as well as managers and department leadership. 

A complete list of the working group’s recommendations can be found in the full report, but some of our top-level recommendations include:  

  • Increasing the use of non-sworn personnel for routine services that do not require a uniformed officer
  • Increasing the use of mental-health professionals or highly trained staff to respond to called related to mental health matters
  • Reviewing all protocols and practices pertaining to hiring, training, evaluation, promotion, and termination—as well as dispatch, call response, and investigations—for potential bias, personal prejudice, or partiality
  • Conducting regular reviews of campus safety policies and procedures, including use of force, demonstrations, and dispatch and response protocols in accordance with the bias-free mandate
  • Reviewing and strengthening the complaint process for members of the community
  • Developing a formal, impartial, and robust investigation process to address allegations of misconduct by DPS personnel
  • Compiling and maintaining statistical and data collections beyond what’s currently required
  • Reviewing and updating the department’s policies and procedures around the use and collection of electronic data, video surveillance, and other tools that can be used to monitor a person’s physical location and/or online activity

In terms of training and education, we recommend that the DPS expand its current training program, including curricula created and taught by non-law enforcement personnel such as social workers and inclusion specialists. We also recommend revising the bi-annual community survey to occur annually and include all aspects of safety (physical, emotional, psychological), and that DPS make survey results widely available to the larger Tufts community. 

Finally, we recommend that TUPDS implement a permanent Campus Safety Advisory Board composed of students, faculty, and staff across all four Tufts campuses to provide oversight and accountability.  

Details on these and all other recommendations made by the Campus Safety and Policing working group are available in the full report [PDF].

Many recommendations, such as hiring more non-sworn personnel and mental-health professionals and a community engagement officer, cost additional money. In a time of tight budgets, how will these efforts be consistently funded?  
 
The recommendations will require a reallocation of resources to deliver a new array of services for our community. We believe much of this can be done by restructuring the current departmental budget. If additional financial resources are required, these incremental funds will be evaluated as part of the broader investment in our anti-racism efforts.  

Why aren’t you defunding the Tufts police?  
We recognize that there are multiple strategies for addressing the inequities and injustices that occur in the realm of university policing. To this end, we have partnered with the TUDPS to review and reallocate existing resources within the department to best serve the needs and interests of the Tufts University campus community. 

As the report notes, many calls that come to the DPS are for things that do not require armed police. If more non-sworn personnel are hired to deal with those calls, will the number of sworn (and armed) police officers be reduced?  

To date, no plans have been made to reduce the number of sworn police officers. However, our recommendations call for greater use of non-sworn personnel to respond to calls not requiring sworn officers. Sworn officers will be utilized for all calls where a uniformed officer is appropriate.

Some of the recommendations put the burden of effort for the reform and creation of new policies within the DPS. Is there going to be an effort to directly involve the wider Tufts community in oversight of police reform efforts? 

Numerous recommendations in the report call for greater accountability and transparency in the TUDPS activities. To this end, the committee recommended the establishment of an independent Campus Safety Advisory Board that will review and make recommendations in daily operations and in the context of complaints citing the TUPDS. 

The report calls for the creation of a new working group to examine the issue of arming public safety officers. Why can’t you disarm police now? When will the issue be definitively addressed?   

Before we made any decisions regarding the use of armed Tufts police officers, our working group looked at various research and case studies on the subject. This preliminary review revealed that a greater amount of time and resources would be needed to appropriately assess the need for armed officers. We expect that this group’s work may take approximately 12 months to complete and will be a more involved process than the one undertaken thus far.