KU task force recommends increased training and oversight for police officers, some changes to public safety office’s duties
photo by: Sara Shepherd
A task force charged with evaluating the University of Kansas’ public safety office will be recommending more training and oversight for police officers, as well as some changes to the office’s duties, according to a draft of the task force’s recommendations.
The 25-member group’s draft recommendations emphasize the need for KU Public Safety officers to get more training on biases and mental health issues. The group also calls for transitioning some first-response services away from the agency, especially with regard to mental health emergencies. The task force will submit its recommendations to Chancellor Douglas Girod in November.
The draft recommendations don’t include anything about getting rid of the public safety office in its entirety, though — something that some student groups had called for in the wake of nationwide protests against police brutality.
Chuck Epp, a KU law professor and chair of the task force, said in a campus message that the draft recommendations were released to allow members of the public and the KU community a further opportunity to comment on the issue.
“The University of Kansas is proud to be part of the much-needed national movement to reexamine policing and public safety to ensure that our practices are sound, equitable and just,” Epp said.
Epp said the task force, which was commissioned at the beginning of September, held information-gathering sessions and organized work groups to develop recommendations for KU police in three main areas:
• Responses to behavioral mental health crises
• Officer conduct and systems for managing conduct, particularly regarding officers’ interactions with members of historically marginalized groups
• Advisory and oversight processes
“In the course of this process, the task force has drawn on the expertise of a wide range of individuals and units at KU,” he said.
In the draft, the task force also says that recent protests against police brutality show the need for law enforcement agencies to change their practices.
“Behind these episodic protests, however, lies ongoing frustration among African Americans and others about police practices and behavior and, ultimately, the role of police in society,” the summary says. “Although not new, the recent upwelling of concern is more widespread and widely shared than in the past. American policing faces a crisis of legitimacy.”
It’s currently unclear when the task force will deliver its final report and recommendations, and when Girod may choose to implement the group’s findings.
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