Amid a relatively peaceful yet frigid spring semester, the University of Minnesota Police Department continues to serve the University community and keep our expansive campus relatively safe. Although UMPD has handled campus safety smoothly, questions have surfaced regarding UMPD funding and the limit of its capabilities. Administrative cuts across the University have been prevalent. However, the UMPD budget largely remains untouched, according to a recent Minnesota Daily article. This may seem trivial because we expect trends to remain similar throughout the University. But the UMPD budget remains the same for a reason and should be upheld — ensuring a continuation of the same level of safety that has been enjoyed thus far on campus.
There are many reasons the UMPD budget has remained untouched, with the most prominent being that officer salaries take up a large portion of the budget. The University is a large campus settled right next to downtown Minneapolis, (and in St. Paul), which includes easy access in and out of every area of campus. It takes a great deal of manpower to cover the more than 1,150 acres that the University occupies, and it would be irresponsible to cut officers with the sole intention of simply limiting the UMPD budget. During fall and spring semesters, campus alone comprises enough people to be considered the fifth largest city in the entire state. Given relatively low crime rates compared to other Big Ten schools, the UMPD budget, and thus its officer numbers, should remain untouched in order to ensure the same level of security moving forward.
Recently, the Students for a Democratic Society organized a rally calling for the disarmament of the UMPD. Although we support the group's effort to organize and voice its opinion, we disagree with its message. Given that crime statistics remain low and the only incident involving a discharged firearm in the last 10 years was to put down a dying raccoon, the UMPD has offered no evidence of larger problems regarding use of force. We've previously acknowledged larger problems regarding policing in the Twin Cities and on a national level. However, these issues may be more prevalent on a city, state or national scale, rather than on a campus scale. If reforms to the UMPD were determined to be necessary, we believe the best way is through community engagement, rather than defunding, disarming or even dismantling.
A great first step in a reform process was initiated by Minnesota Student Association's University of Minnesota Police Department Student Engagement team, which creates a board responsible for holding UMPD student body ambassadors roles. By engaging with police and creating open lines of communication through the ambassadors positions, we can create an environment in which the student body and the UMPD work together to ensure student needs are met and safety on campus is better than ever.
We should continue communicating with the UMPD, whether through MSA, University resources or individually. The responsibility of keeping campus safe falls on the shoulders of everyone, and budget cuts are not the one-size-fits-all solution that it often seems to be.