As a result of increased awareness of police brutality after the Black Lives Matter protests of summer 2020, the Student Government Association (SGA) has created a new student advisory board for campus police and public safety. The board calls for recognizing the importance of mental health services and acting as a liaison between students and police.
This new board results from the months-long efforts by Student Body President Tahlieah Sampson, Secretary of State and National Affairs Catherine Luba and Jeremiah Williams, Chair of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. In June of 2020, Chancellor Dubois originally had this idea for a campus police oversight committee that would include students and staff.
When asked why SGA decided to create this new board, Luba said, "Our country is going through a difficult time dealing with not just the COVID-19 pandemic, but also the racial injustice that is taking away innocent lives, including police-related violence. This racial injustice has increased fear in our Black and Brown students."
To address these issues, Luba said that "This Student Advisory Board will serve as a liaison between the students of UNC Charlotte and Police and Public Safety, sharing student needs and concerns with Police and Public Security (PPS) and sharing the role and initiatives of PPS with students. The Board will help build trust and relationships between the PPS and the Niner Nation community."
When asked about what this new board will achieve for students, Luba said, "Our main goal is to strengthen the relationship between students and our campus police. We want students to walk around campus and feel safe and that our campus police are working for them and not against them".
Additionally, Luba said, "We also want to ensure our campus police are up to date with students' questions and concerns while also sharing what campus police is currently doing with students." Luba also focused on the importance of campus police staying informed on current topics. She said, "We want to make sure our campus police are informed on topics such as Diversity, Equity, Discrimination, Racism, Microaggressions and the history of policing with people of marginalized identities."
"I believe that it's always positive when there are outreach and collaboration with students on our campus," said UNC Charlotte Chief of Police Jeffrey Baker. "The Advisory Board is another method that provides PPS with a bridge for better communication on important issues related to our University."
The board's responsibilities include reviewing existing UNC Charlotte Police and Public Safety procedures in conjunction with PPS staff and officers, contributing to equitable policy development, engaging Niner Nation through educational outreach on UNC Charlotte Police and Public Safety initiatives and directives, engaging in discussions related to Diversity, Equity, Discrimination, Racism, Microaggressions, and the history of policing with people of marginalized identities, and assisting campus police officers in making decisions regarding hiring new officers, policy changes, and training."
Luba clarified that "The Board will not conduct investigations, hear testimony, or contribute to disciplinary action. The Board will not respond to citizen complaints or collect data. Any complaints received by the campus will be shared with this Board to drive prioritization of their work."
Among the Black Lives Matter movement's demands was the police's defunding. In 2020, Charlotte's City Council voted to increase police funding by 3.6%, while funding for housing and neighborhood services increased by 1.8%. Williams said that the new board under SGA would not directly remove funding from the campus police.