Brown: Abolish Campus Police and Give SLCPD Jurisdiction


Sydney Stam

(Graphic by Sydney Stam | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Jackson Brown, Opinion Writer


In June 2020, the student-led group Unsafe U called for the dissolution of the University of Utah Police Department. Later that month, The Daily Utah Chronicle opinion writer Morgan Barron dissented from this idea. She instead argued that campus police should stay in place, but receive significantly less funding. She also noted that student opinion would mean much less with an outside department taking jurisdiction.

Both sides to this argument of keeping or removing campus police make sense. Striking a balance between student safety and student trust in the university proves difficult. People generally consider policing to be a good thing for a community. But since student trust in the campus police seems unsalvageable, the best interest of the U might be to hand over jurisdiction to the Salt Lake City Police Department.

The Consequences of Removing All Policing

Following the murder of George Floyd, Minneapolis attempted to dissolve its police department. However, Minneapolis’ plan never came close to implementation — the violent crime rate shot up to record numbers in Minneapolis in 2020 and stalled the efforts of the city council — exemplifying the problem with such modeling. 

This surge in violence brought to reality a commonly-raised question raised: How is a mental health professional supposed to handle an armed and dangerous person by themselves? While they might handle some situations better than police officers, such as we’ve seen in New York City, it’s irresponsible to place the sole burden on them.

While the U may not have the same problems with violent crime as an entire city might, it definitely still occurs. A police presence fills the need to address violent crimes, as talking down a criminal will not always be realistic. Because of this, it’s only reasonable to have at least some police presence on campus — even if some students don’t support it.

Campus Police Still Needs to Go

However, just because a police presence will help keep crime in check, it doesn’t mean campus police should exist. Students in recent years have rightfully grown wary of campus police. From the awful mishandling of the killing of Lauren McCluskey to the allegations of misconduct assigned to now-resigned police chief Rodney Chatman, student opinion about campus police has severely lowered.

The campus police crime record is not fantastic either. The most recent data available comes from 2019, in which the department oversaw increases in rape, dating violence and stalking. To their credit, decreases occurred in domestic violence and fondling cases. While the university has since taken actions to curb the increases, campus police obviously has no overwhelming effect in deterring criminals. When a student body lacks any trust in a department that does mediocre work at best, trying to revive it seems useless.

The lack of organization and stability designates campus police as unfit to serve the U’s students. Students don’t know what to expect. Police chiefs change often, so protocols don’t seem solid and entire systems get reworked. The solution? Scrapping UUPD and handing over jurisdiction to another police force, a plan endorsed by Unsafe U.

The Case for SLCPD

While not perfect, the SLCPD brings a sense of stability in their policing. Usually, one knows what to expect when dealing with the SLCPD. The SLC government heavily scrutinizes the department’s policies and practices, often forcing them to follow procedure carefully.

This stability partially stems from their long history. Founded in 1851, the department has had over a century to create better public safety practices. SLCPD is also accredited through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), the self-described “gold standard in public safety,” something that the University of Utah Police cannot yet say. SLCPD has access to more resources, more officers and more experience than much of campus police, and would likely fare well with a widened jurisdiction.

University students could still voice their opinion through voting and speech. If SLCPD does something wrong, say something and vote. Due to the unclear relationship between the Salt Lake City municipal government, the U and campus police, the campus police department is much harder to hold accountable, which has become one of many flaws in its existence. While perfect police presence may never happen, given the two options, SLCPD is the better bet.

Implementing SLCPD into the U

As easy as scrapping campus police sounds, restructuring jurisdiction comes with much to consider.

Currently, SLCPD likely couldn’t handle such a drastic addition to their map, and the U would be dealing with a major paperwork headache. Since the issues seem to lie more at an institutional level, we could instead keep the base of officers and train them in SLCPD procedures. Through the transfer of power, former campus officers would need to adhere to stricter procedures and would be more accountable to voters and a government that holds a lot more power than the U.

Right now, students would likely feel unsafe with or without campus police. With its rocky history, especially in the past decade, any trust gained from the students has gone out the window. While a lack of police presence certainly won’t help rising crime across campus, a change must be made. By getting rid of the unstable campus police and replacing them with an established department in the SLCPD, students may find it far easier to feel safe on campus.


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This article was updated on Aug. 30 to remove an inaccurate description of Unsafe U’s position on a different police force taking over the jurisdiction currently held by UUPD. Unsafe U would support the University of Utah’s campus becoming a part of another policing jurisdiction if UUPD was dissolved. We regret the error.