Defund Drexel Police and Divest from Police State Collusion

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We are joining the call by Drexel. As members of the Drexel Anti-Racist Action Coalition (DARAC), we are joining the call by Drexel Community for Justice demanding  the abolition of Drexel University Police Department, cut all ties with Philadelphia Police Department and demand the development of police-free strategies for community safety at Drexel University and West Philadelphia. 


After four members of the Minneapolis Police Department murdered George Floyd, there has been a national movement to reckon with the extent, tactics, and necessity of police and policing practices. The City of Philadelphia occupies a crucial place in this discussion. Addressing the city’s legacy of police violence is especially urgent in West Philadelphia, where the Philadelphia Police Department murdered 11 African-American residents in 1985 in the country’s only aerial bombing of civilians by a police department. The scars from this event, as well as from decades of intense policing practices run deep in West Philadelphia. University City, the home of Drexel University, is the one of the most heavily policed sections of the City of Philadelphia and is the site of 120,000 patrol hours, primarily by municipal officers and officers of the independent police forces of Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania. As concerned faculty, students, alumni, and community members, we call on Drexel University to divest from the university’s privately run police force, and to end all partnerships with the Philadelphia Police Department. 


As expressed in its mission statement,Drexel University should “Demonstrate integrity through rigorous adherence to ethical standards; respect for shared governance; support for work-life balance and equitable policies; impartiality and freedom from conflicts of interest; and trust-based relationships with academic, corporate, government, and community partners.” [emphasis added.] Drexel’s values conflict with funding a privately run police force and assisting the Philadelphia police department in order to harass Drexel students, staff, and faculty, as well as our neighbors in Powelton Village and Mantua. 


Publicly documented incidents of police misconduct by the Drexel University Police Department do not demonstrate “adherence to ethical standards,” “respect for shared governance,” or “trust-based relationships with…community partners.” In 2011 DUPD officer Robert Allen rammed Walter Johnson, a black man, against a concrete wall with his Drexel University patrol SUV after Johnson attempted to use public entrances to Drexel University buildings. Johnson suffered significant injuries and Drexel settled his lawsuit with Drexel University out of court. A related lawsuit filed in 2015 by former Drexel University Police Chief Fred Carbonara documents a disturbing, systemic culture of racial profiling, including an order by a senior officer “to stop all blacks in hoodies, and to stop any black youth on a bicycle.” In his lawsuit, Carbonara also claims that Drexel University administration colluded to force him to diminish the extent of Johnson’s injuries. This reflects the national trend of the impunity police officers enjoy in the USA.

 

It is heartening to see President Fry’s swift initiatives to establish Drexel’s Anti-Racism Task Force and Black Cultural Center. If conducted properly and with enough resources, these steps will work towards restitution for Drexel’s  past and current injustices and inequalities. However, these initiatives are not enough. We call on Drexel University to cease cooperating with or contributing to any policing practices or policing agreements which antagonize Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in the Drexel community and its surroundings. Thus we demand:

  • Commit in writing that Drexel will become a police-free campus within the next two years. 
    • That will involve disbanding DUPD 
    • Divesting from any relation with Philadelphia Police Department; University of Pennsylvania Police Department; SEPTA Police; Amtrak Police; and Philadelphia Housing Authority Police on campus.
    • In the next two years Drexel should become a policing-free campus
  • Commit in writing that there will be no retaliation for anti-racist work on campus, including calls to defund the police and demanding a racially just campus from the administration.
  • Develop police-free strategies of community safety in the next two years, including:
    • Trained mental workers should  respond to mental-health calls on campus and off-campus in West Philadelphia;
    • We demand the immediate implementation of arms-free and police-free de-escalation strategies on campus and in the neighboring community 
  • Defund and divest from the Drexel University Police Department immediately and redistribute funds to:
    • Mental-health and crisis-management resources on campus;
    • Community-controlled budgets in West Philadelphia, especially Powelton Village, West Powelton, Mantua, Haverford North, and Belmont;
    • Redistribute funds to already existing academic programs that have been starved of resources, such as Africana Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies.
  • Decriminalize Blackness on campus and in the community where Drexel resides immediately by:
    • Banning the use of guns and arms by DUPD immediately;
      Removing all references to race in the DrexelAlerts;
    • Ban the box for criminal background checks in admissions and employment applications as guaranteed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964;
    • Zero tolerance for harassment of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color among DU faculty, staff, and students as well as community members;
    • Disband DUPD head-quarters from campus as part of harm reduction on campus. 
  • Divesting from PPD and the Prison Industrial Complex Now, which includes: 
    • Serving on their boards; 
    • Cancelling contracts and leases with entities that profit from private prisons in US;
    • Cease sharing information with PPD;
    • Cease all donations to any foundation or fundraising events that support the Fraternal Order of Police or other police organizations, such as A Night for Blue. 
  • We demand to know the disciplinary actions that exist at Drexel to punish Drexel University Campus Police officers and the PPD who use excessive violence, force, or racial profiling tactics in police work.  
  • We also demand full transparency about the frequency of such reports of officer misconduct, racial profiling, use of force, and information about what punishment—if any—officers received for employing excess and unjustified force. 
    • Immediately release data about DUPD, Public Safety and Allied Universal Security Services (AUSS)’ staff misconduct over the past 20 years;
    • Immediately release 20 years of DUPD, Public Safety and AUSS  budget data, including data on officers’ salaries.
    • Protect the minimum-wage security officers by training them as safety ambassadors
  • Address the legacy of racism on our campus, gentrification induced displaced and the history of redlining in West Philadelphia, which includes Drexel’s massive footprint in Powelton and Mantua.
    • Reparation would include actively working to change public policy that has so far disproportionately affected black communities
    • Rectify the excessive presence of surveillance apparatus (policing and CCTV cameras) on Drexel’s campus and leased properties like Schuylkill Yards 
    • Invest in the Education Equity Fund, paying at least 40% of forgone property taxes. These funds will be used to meet the essential needs of Philadelphia public schools.

       

We Vehemently Object to Hiring Charles Ramsey for Independent Review of DUPD


President Fry announced an “independent review of the Drexel University Police Department by former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey,” in direct response to calls for universities to defund campus police. We roundly object to any partnership with Charles Ramsey and call on the university to immediately terminate any financial relationship with Ramsey as a consultant. A 2015 study of the Philadelphia Police Department by the Department of Justice determined that Ramsey’s tenure as Commissioner of the PPD was characterized by severe shortcomings and systemic harmful and dangerous practices: 


“The assessment identifies serious deficiencies in the department’s use of force policies and training, including a failure to maintain a certified field training program; deficient, inconsistent supervision and operational control of officer-involved shooting investigations and crime scenes; and oversight and accountability practices in need of improvement, the most notable being the need for the department to fully cooperate with the Police Advisory Commission.” 


While Ramsey was PPD Commissioner, there was a steep increase in officer-involved shootings in Philadelphia, with 394 total shootings. As Commissioner in Washington D.C., Ramsey supported a program of “safety stops” driven by racial profiling. In Philadelphia, Ramsey sharply increased patrols in North and West Philadelphia, increasing instances of racial profiling. In 2017, the city of Wilmington, DE engaged Ramsey’s services as consultant at a cost of $112,000 to review the city’s police. Wilmington city councilman Robert A. Williams complained that “[w]e got nothing to show for our money.” In 2016, Ramsey abruptly “bowed out” of a consultancy agreement with the city of Chicago after billing $37,490 at $350/hr, and providing no definitive or deliverable work product. 


By aligning itself with Charles Ramsey, Drexel University is sending the message that it supports police violence, racist antagonisms by officers, and the prison-industrial complex.


Police violence is active and alive in Philadelphia. On June 25th, 2020 Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia admitted that the Philadelphia Police Force used excessive force against peaceful protestors in various incidents across the city in June 2020, especially the use of rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray on peaceful protesters on 52nd Street on May 31, and on June 1 on I-676. Yet, whatever modicum of oversight exists for the Philadelphia Police Department, privately run university police forces lack even the most basic semblance of transparency or independent oversight. 


We hope to continue to educate, agitate and plan actions until we can create an anti-racist campus at Drexel. If universities fail in their function to create just societies, then we are in grave danger. The first step in this process will be to cut ties and dismantle the police-university collusion that perpetuates violence on Black people, both on campuses, and in their communities. 


Sincerely,

Drexel Anti-Racist Coalition Action



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