DPSS executive director Eddie Washington talks police reform, fall policies

Tuesday, August 11, 2020 - 11:54pm

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Courtesy of Varsha Vedapudi

The University of Michigan Central Student Government and NAACP co-hosted a town hall Tuesday evening to discuss issues such as police brutality, DPSS policy on police officer accountability and concerns regarding campus safety. DPSS executive director Eddie Washington was invited as a guest to weigh in on these policies before the start of the academic year.

LSA junior Darlena York, president of the University’s NAACP chapter, began the discussion by presenting information about the history of police brutality in the context of current events and holding the system accountable for their actions.

“Data from the Henry Wallace Police Crime Database logs out of 10,287 criminal cases that were arrests from 2005 and 2014 involve 8495 federal sworn law enforcement officers,” York said. “However, only 110 law enforcement officers nationwide have been charged with murder or manslaughter in an armed police shooting and only 42 of those are convicted.” 

Washington talked about how DPSS specifically is held accountable and holds its officers to a high standard. 

“There is a police oversight committee that students or faculty can go straight to ... without ever having to come to us,” Washington said. “If someone makes a complaint, those complaints are documented, they are investigated … It doesn’t just go away.”

LSA junior Arianna McClellan, a member of the NAACP, discussed the need to improve police training in order to create inclusive communities.

“What police reform aims to do is it aims to transform the structure of organizations, so that they are more accurate, more progressive and more responsive to the needs of all members of society,” McClellan said.

When asked about the role DPSS will play in the upcoming school year to ensure public health guidelines are enforced, Washington responded by explaining that DPSS officers will only step in when absolutely necessary.

“The last resort is us,” Washington said. “The only exception (where an officer will intervene) is if we have this imminent harm like if someone may be intentionally or whatever threatening saying ‘Hey, I got COVID’ and they’re potentially spitting on someone.”

Washington also briefly introduced the role of student ambassadors, who will be responsible for attending gatherings and notifying the DPSS hotline in cases of non-compliance.

“DPSS postures that we are hoping to dispatch, sooner than later, student leaders into that space,” Washington said. “I believe in you all.”

Even though the pandemic presents unique challenges for DPSS, Washington feels optimistic about the upcoming school year.

“We have the best chance, among any university given our health system, our epidemiologists and specialists in the College of Engineering,” Washington said. “Now it’s just a matter of implementation.”

Daily Staff Reporter Varsha Vedapudi can be reached at varshakv@umich.edu.