The Collegian
Saturday, August 15, 2020

URPD changes use of force policy, implements advisory board

<p>The Special Programs Building houses transportation services,&nbsp;the student health center, university police department and the School of Professional and Continuing Studies.&nbsp;</p>

The Special Programs Building houses transportation services, the student health center, university police department and the School of Professional and Continuing Studies. 

Editor's Note: The article has been updated to provide context to statements made by a representative of the Black Student Alliance.  

The University of Richmond Police Department has made changes to its use of force policy in response to George Floyd’s death and will implement a community advisory board next semester with the purpose of strengthening the relationship between URPD and the student body, said David McCoy, chief of police.

URPD training will now place equal emphasis on officers’ use of force and their responsibility to stop excessive use of force, McCoy wrote in a statement to the UR community that he shared with The Collegian on June 8.


Courtesy of Dave McCoy

McCoy said in an interview with The Collegian that the police officers' lack of action to prevent Floyd's death struck a chord with him and led him to realize the importance of integrating stopping excessive use of force into URPD's training.

"If you witness a violation of unjust use of force or against policy, it is your duty to intervene and stop that action," McCoy said. "That's a critical component that we have moved into. It is a responsibility to intervene.”

The community advisory board was created after a Feb. 14 report from the Westhampton College Government Association and Richmond College Student Government Association requested URPD build a stronger relationship with students, McCoy wrote in his emailed statement.

Although WCGA and RCSGA presidents seniors Noella Park and AJ Polcari did not recall an official report, they said there have been discussions with URPD regarding its relationship with the student body.

“I think having an advisory board filled with students, faculty and staff will give us an opportunity to talk about important public safety issues on campus in a formal setting that we can actually get things done together,” McCoy said. 

The board is set to meet at least once each quarter to discuss URPD’s operations, policies and practices, according to URPD’s website.

Members of the board will be chosen by McCoy and will serve a one-year term, with the ability to serve up to three consecutive terms, according to URPD’s website. Anyone interested can apply or recommend someone by sending a letter of interest to URPD Captain Eric Beatty, according to URPD’s website.

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Polcari said having the oversight of an advisory board is crucial given what is happening in the U.S. regarding police brutality and the lack of trust between the communities and law enforcement.

"[Police brutality] is not something that's isolated," Polcari said. "It's something that's systemic. So I think that we need to make sure we're ahead of the curve."

The board will be composed of 10 members, according to URPD's website, but McCoy said the number may increase depending on student interest. URPD is aiming to include students from different backgrounds. 

Polcari said having students who represent different groups on campus on the board would be necessary for it to be effective.

"The only way to do that is to have a diverse and robust body of people from different parts of campus," Polcari said. "They have different angles and perspectives on how policing interacts with them on a daily basis."

Sal Girma, a rising senior and president of the Black Student Alliance, and Taneha Fincher, a rising senior and vice president of BSA, said BSA faced issues with over-policing at its fall 2019 party. 

BSA paid for one police officer to attend the party, but by the end of the party there were six police officers standing near the entrance of the venue, the Alice Haynes Room in the Tyler Haynes Commons, Fincher said.

“What really frustrated us was just that, like, why do we need six police officers when nobody is yelling, nobody is fighting?” Fincher said. “After the party, the officers told us, ‘You guys dealt with [the crowd] really well.’ So, to us we were like, if you feel like we dealt with it well, then why were there so many officers at our party?”

Girma said BSA would benefit more from having a student risk team that is trained by URPD than having the advisory board. The advisory board with students would not be helpful in solving over-policing problems at parties, she said.

"I think if the risk team was trained at risk, the way that frats trained, I think that would be good because we've shown that we don't really need the policing, or if they want to police maybe provide one officer," Girma said.

McCoy said Girma's idea of URPD risk team training would be a great first project for the advisory board.  

Polcari said he also supported the idea of risk team training with URPD for groups such as BSA.

"Having two or three officers that they have to pay for takes that money out of their budget to do other programming," Polcari said. "So I think whatever process streamlines us to that point, where there is less of a police presence would be better."

"[Risk team training] may lead to no police, I don't know, but it's going to have to have the support of the board, so those are the kind of hands-on activities that are going to be implemented," McCoy said. "We have to take the time and understand each other.”

URPD also made the demographic information of its criminal arrests and traffic stops available to the public in a report released June 8. The report also includes information about reports of use of force and complaints made against officers. McCoy wrote in the statement to The Collegian that this information had been made available for public review purposes.

“[The demographic information is] something we intend to keep public, which wasn't really at a public forefront beforehand, but I think that shares our story a little bit," McCoy said. "And I think it's important for our community in particular ... to have the ability to take a look at that.” 

Contact news editor Jackie Llanos at jackie.llanoshernandez@richmond.edu.

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