KU launches 25-person task force dedicated to improving local policing; Girod says KU PSO will stay

photo by: Sara Shepherd

KU Office of Public Safety patrol vehicle, pictured June 2016.

The University of Kansas on Friday announced it was forming a task force dedicated to reviewing and recommending changes to the public safety policies of its on-campus police force.

KU Chancellor Douglas Girod said the 25-person task force, which will be chaired by KU Distinguished Professor Charles Epp, is the first step in addressing a commitment the university made in early June to address systemic racism and inequities in the KU and Lawrence community.

“This new task force will be charged with reviewing KU Public Safety policies, practices and procedures; examining national best practices and proposals for change; and making recommendations to the Office of the Chancellor regarding potential improvements to ensure respectful, transparent and community-responsive public safety services,” Girod said in a written message.

Epp, the chair of the task force, has expertise in law, social change and administrative reform — with a particular emphasis on rights and racial discrimination. That knowledge base will serve as “tremendous value” to the initiative, Girod said.

Lawrence Mayor Jennifer Ananda and City Manager Craig Owens will also take part in the task force through community listening events taking place in September. They will receive the task force’s recommendations when the group concludes its work, Girod said.

The task force will begin meeting at the start of the fall semester — which starts Aug. 24 — and conclude sometime in November. The task force will then issue recommendations to Girod, who can decide what changes to implement.

In Friday’s message, Girod also appeared to subtly address a petition that has been circulating for several weeks on Change.org that calls for KU to abolish its campus police force and reallocate its budget to campus services that better serve underrepresented identities. The petition gathered over 875 signatures in a matter of weeks, but until now had not been addressed by the university.

“The University of Kansas has benefited immensely over the years from having its own on-campus public safety office, and will continue to do so,” Girod said. “We look forward to being part of the much-needed national movement to reexamine policing and public safety to ensure that our practices are sound, equitable and just.”

The task force members are as follows:

• Alex Villagran, a graduate student in the School of Public Affairs

• Aramis Watson, associate director of KU Student Housing

• Azja Butler, undergraduate student

• Bulaong Ramiz-Hall, director of the Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity

• Caleb Bobo, KU alumnus

• Chris Keary, Chief of KU Public Safety

• D.A. Graham, University Ombuds

• Dan Beckler, associate athletics director and spokesperson for Kansas Athletics

• Darin Beck, director of the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center

• David McCormack, undergraduate student representative

• Deborah Dandridge, Kansas collection librarian, KU Libraries

• Emilio Santana, undergraduate student representative

• Jason Matejkowski, associate professor and associate dean for academic programs in the School of Social Welfare

• Jennifer Ng, interim vice provost for diversity and equity

• Kim Warren, associate professor in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Department of History

• Lua Yuille, a law professor and KU’s Faculty Senate President

• Precious Porras, assistant vice provost for diversity and equity and director of the Office for Multicultural Affairs

• Robert Waller, KU Budget Office and a Staff Senate representative

• Sanjay Mishra, a business professor and KU’s University Senate President

• Sarah Deer, a professor in the School of Public Affairs and Administration and Department of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies

• Shawn Alexander, chair of KU’s Department of African and African American Studies

• A Student Senate designee to be determined

• Tammara Durham, vice provost for student affairs

Two additional students will be added to the task force in the coming days, Girod said.

A schedule of the group’s public events, along with an online submission forum to provide input to the task force, will also be made available on a new website soon.


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