From the Daily: Stop overpolicing students of color

Sunday, October 29, 2017 - 11:54pm

In an increasingly tense school year for students of color, the Oct. 7 football game against Michigan State University brought on renewed controversy: the policing of multicultural fraternity parties. On gameday, Kappa Alpha Psi and Lambda Theta Phi, historically Black and Latino fraternities, respectively, received upward of six citations, whereas all 10 white fraternities surveyed by The Michigan Daily reported no police intervention at their house tailgates. This disparity underscores the overpolicing of communities of color in Ann Arbor. The Michigan Daily Editorial Board calls upon the Ann Arbor Police Department and the University of Michigan’s Division of Public Safety and Security to protect, rather than selectively police, communities of color.

The policing of multicultural fraternities Oct. 7 is just one item in a laundry list of occurrences of overpolicing of communities of color in Ann Arbor. When the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity threw a Christmas in July party in 2016, police from seven different districts were called to shut down the event. Though there were no major arrests, several Black students noted the use of unnecessary force by police. Other KAP brothers alleged that AAPD has broken up date parties by coming into their house, checking drinks and inspecting identifications — something that rarely, if ever, occurs at white fraternities.

Overpolicing extends beyond the University of Michigan community as well and affects the city of Ann Arbor. In 2014, Aura Rosser, a mentally ill Black woman, was fatally shot by a white AAPD officer, causing local outcry. More recently, Ciaeem Slaton, a Black teenager, was violently arrested at Blake Transit Center after failing to produce a school ID he had not yet received.

The Editorial Board believes these stories are far from anomalies; rather, they are results of a cycle of systemic racism. Communities of color are not afforded the same connections as white communities, which holds true within the Greek life system. Fraternities in the National Multicultural Greek Council lack access to many of the resources available to majority-white fraternities in the Interfraternity Council. For example, IFC fraternities have official houses that seldom change, whereas NMGC fraternities rarely hold a house for more than two years. IFC fraternities have formal recruiting and funding processes, allowing them to maintain high numbers of active members and alumni, who bring in more money and enable them to hire private security and formally register their events. NMGC fraternities, on the other hand, have not historically had these funding structures in place.

Furthermore, IFC fraternities have a closer relationship to local police through informal and formal connections. Police are more willing to allow IFC fraternities to “self-police” their parties due in part to these connections. We must note that these problems aren’t limited to fraternity parties alone. There is little discrepancy between what policing would occur at a multicultural fraternity party and a party primarily attended by people of color, even though similarly disruptive events attended by a largely white community would likely fly under the radar. Such discrepancies in policing may be attributed partially to the fact AAPD is not as diverse as the city it serves.

Police departments lack the transparency needed to debunk their actions as resultant to anything except for racial bias. In cases like these, transparency becomes especially important, and police departments must own up to their own actions. How and why policing occurs is very unclear to the public. There is already considerable speculation on whether police are protecting their citizens; any doubt on this front is unacceptable.

Police are meant to protect. When their policing becomes selective, they are not doing their job properly, and change is needed. We as the Editorial Board agree that overpolicing communities of color is wrong and a consequence of institutionalized, societal racism. It is the responsibility of police to hold themselves accountable to justice and to be transparent in doing so. We demand the Ann Arbor Police Department meets these standards so that all students — especially students of color — will experience a safe and equitable campus climate.