Letter: University Police Are Obsolete in Incidents of Racist Violence


Ivana Martinez

UnSafe U protesters gather at the Public Safety Building on the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City to protest the actions of officers involved in the Lauren McCluskey case on Aug. 6, 2020. (Chronicle archives)

By Ermiya Fanaeian


During the fall semester of 2021, multiple incidents occurred on our campus where Black students, and people who were not students, experienced racist attacks in ways that justifiably angered the community. In ways that we have seen before, and sadly are no longer surprising or unexpected. The fact that these incidents occurred on our campus was something that was kept quiet for months on the institution’s behalf, and the community at large only became aware once those impacted by such violence protested against the institution’s silence. Once the community became aware and began to mobilize, the institution was no longer able to be silent, but their response was even more disappointing. Their response was so disappointing, that we read it with even less hope for a campus free from racist violence than we had during their time of abdication.

One aspect of their response, in particular, is something incredibly important to note as we understand the failure to address such issues. As their statement says, “Both incidents were reported to University Police on Dec. 19, 2021, and the agency is now actively investigating the issue.” The problem lies within this exact trust that they have for policing — as if policing has been a reliable way to address racist violence instead of assisting in it. The problem lies within their exact trust of internal university processes when such internal processes have only been a detriment to students. How are we being told that we must trust that the very system that failed us will be the system to heal us?

What the University fails to understand is that policing was established precisely to assist and protect the very violence which we are protesting against. Policing in America, from the very beginning of its roots, was established to protect a nation and ideology that promoted the kinds of attacks we witnessed on our campus fall semester. Police were in fact the very reason why so many social justice movements were so bloody. Police were the reason the state was allowed to murder and criminalize those who fought against racism and classism. Police were the reason why a woman who reported to them 20+ times was murdered on our very campus. This reality is contrary to the idea that police simply exist to protect polite society and keep it polite. An idea that many in our higher education environments continue to blindly believe when evidence in front of their eyes proves otherwise.

University president Taylor Randall, someone whose appointment I was critical of in campus media at the beginning of fall semester, said in his follow-up statement: “improve education and training, and identify recommendations for making meaningful change” as actionable initiatives being taken on the institution’s part. What Randall and the rest of the University’s senior leaders fail to realize is that it doesn’t matter how many new workshops they introduce and how many town halls they host. None of this matters if the institution is not willing to make material changes in the lives of students who continuously face racist, patriarchal, transphobic and xenophobic violence under their watch. The University’s police are obsolete, the University’s internal processes are obsolete, repeating activists’ buzzwords in public statements is obsolete and new training doesn’t change these realities. It is time for the institution to abolish the police department, and their internal agencies that allowed for this to happen, in order to reallocate every last one of their funds to networks, organizations and basic necessities that will truly ensure our safety and inclusivity.


— Ermiya Fanaeian, University of Utah student

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