Northwestern Conducts External Review on Role of University Police

Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., will consider restructuring the duties of the Department of Safety and Security, including the University Police, after receiving the results of an external review of the department.

Craig Johnson, Senior Vice President for Business and Finance at the university, sent an email this week announcing that the university is “rethinking Northwestern’s public safety practices” following the review, conversations with members of the community, and feedback from the Community Safety Advisory Board. According to the Daily Northwestern, two external reviewers held more than 80 conversations and focus groups with students, faculty, staff, campus law enforcement, and the administration. Groups consulted included NU Community Not Cops, Northwestern College Republicans, the deans of each graduate and undergraduate college, and more.

According to the report, “Both the community engagement and operational review found stakeholders broadly agree there is an urgent need for systemic change in campus safety practices. Many people of color, particularly Black students, feel pain and fear when seeing or interacting with a campus safety officer.”

Recommendations included in the report cover three broad themes:

  • “Rebuild trust through community engagement”
  • “Redirect resources towards more appropriate responses”
  • “Increase accountability and transparency of campus security”

More specifically, the report recommended measures like increasing interaction between officers and the community by placing police in small, visible spaces like residence halls to promote informal, friendly engagement. It also recommended that the Safety and Security Code of Conduct and Ethics be revised to include watching officers’ social media use and engagement with “extremist language and hate groups.”

Johnson’s email also stated that the University has committed to completing four tasks by June: again, according to the Daily Northwestern, “reconsidering DSS’s role in student mental health response, reviewing DSS’s current services and whether it should be performing them, rerouting complaints about safety services to outside DSS, and revising the use of racial identifiers in campus crime alerts.”

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning and Campus Security and Life Safety. He can be reached at MJones@1105media.com

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