U Campus Police Rebranding Gives Students Mixed Feelings

The+University+pf+Utahs+police+department+office+in+Salt+Lake+City%2C+Utah+on+June+29%2C+2022.

Jonathan Wang

The University pf Utah’s police department office in Salt Lake City, Utah on June 29, 2022. (Photo by Jonathan Wang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Stevie Shaughnessey, News Writer

 

The Department of Public Safety at the University of Utah has been making major modifications to its division, from the language used by officers to culture changes within the department. One of their most recent changes has been to rebrand the U Campus Police officers to “Peace” Officers.

Many of the changes that have been made to U Police and U Department of Public Safety have been due to the tragic death of Lauren McCluskey, said Keith Squires, chief safety officer at the U.

“For the past few years, everything with the department has really been driven out of tragedy,” Squires said.

According to Squires, his past experiences are what inspired him to enact this change to the current U police officers, saying a police officer’s job is more than just writing citations and arresting people.

“I have in my entire career looked at myself as a peace officer,” Squires said. “Whatever the call is, whatever help that someone needs from me, primarily, I’m there to prevent anybody from being harmed and to keep the peace.”

Squires also hopes this change will inspire campus police officers to approach their job in a way that represents this idea of keeping the peace, and that there are other approaches through the resources at the U to manage disputes.

“It’s nice to have all of those resources available to us to be able to find the best ways to just keep the peace here in our community, and I want to empower our officers to know that they can look at their approach to how we do our jobs the same way,” Squires said.

The police uniforms and vehicles will still be labeled “police” for people to be able to identify them, but will have Peace Officer “markings on the side of our vehicles,” Squires said. The rebranding is more of an internal reminder for the department to do things that are in the best interest of the community.

This change was first announced in a now-deleted tweet by the official U Twitter account. According to Squires, this tweet was deleted because the Department of Public Safety wanted to announce this rebranding in a different way, and didn’t like the way the tweet portrayed the new look of U Police officers.

“The change showed for the first time in a tweet that we put out, that said ‘Peace Officer’ on [a] tactical working vest, and that stark contrast right there for the first introduction to this is not how we originally intended to roll this out,” Squires said.

Deleted tweet from the University of Utah Twitter account depicting a tactical vest with "peace officer" on the front and back reads, "Peace officer: Just one of the ways @UofUSafety is reimagining policing."
Deleted tweet from the University of Utah Twitter account depicting a tactical working vest with “peace officer” on the front and back.

While Squires said that the department has received a positive reaction to the changes, Ermiya Fanaeian, a student at the U studying political science, said just changing the name of their officers isn’t going to make U Police any more welcoming, and their actions in the past have deterred students from coming to them.

“They think this rebranding is somehow going to make them more approachable to the community, but in all actuality, they are not approachable to the community, as they in no way shape or form have been peaceful in the past and in their initiatives,” Fanaeian said.

This initiative is not going to accomplish what the department is hoping for, expressed Fanaeian, and instead of making them more approachable, this rebranding shows police dominance over students.

“So it seems as though they’re just escalating a police state to watch us, to put some type of hyper patrol amongst our campus communities rather than ensuring we actually feel safe on our campuses,” Fanaeian said.

A name change isn’t going to make the U Police’s community outreach more effective, according to Fanaeian, and there has to be an actual change within the system for there to be a difference.

“It’s been a system of domination and control and surveillance over our communities,” Fanaeian said. “There’s definitely a need to have an overhaul of the entire university campus police in ways they have yet to provide.”

Squires expressed that the Department of Public Safety at the U is working to rebuild students’ faith in them, and they want students to be able to ask any questions and provide their opinions about new initiatives.

“There’s no questions off the table,” Squires said. “We’re really trying our best to be as transparent as possible. I think that’s key for us to be able to move forward and really build the trust with the community that they need.”

 

[email protected]

@steviechrony