November 1, 2013

Admin rejects Losier for police review panel

Editor’s Note: Douglas Everson is a former Maroon staffer.

Administrators have rejected ninth-year Ph.D. candidate Toussaint Losier’s bid for a seat on the Independent Review Committee (IRC), an autonomous auditor of the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD).

Earlier this month, the SG Executive Slate chose Losier as their nominee to the committee and submitted their recommendation to Vice President of Student Life Eleanor Daugherty (A.B. ’97). Losier was arrested by UCPD officers while protesting the lack of an adult level-1 trauma center at the University’s Medical Center in January.

“After careful consideration and consultation with stakeholders...[Daugherty] judged that this appointment would put the IRC’s impartiality in dispute,” University spokesperson Jeremy Manier wrote in an e-mail.

Manier declined to reveal the identities of the stakeholders and declined to comment on the details of the decision. He noted that both the IRC’s impartiality and objectivity in fact as well as perceptions of its impartiality and objectivity are essential to its role and operations.

“This is why, for example, members of the UCPD do not serve on the IRC. Although they fill an essential role for our community, they would not be seen as impartial in matters concerning the UCPD,” he wrote in an e-mail.

For his part, Losier said he would have preferred to speak with administrators directly to assess the question of bias in his nomination.

“I would have a better sense of the impartiality issue if I had an interview or talked to people about it,” he said.

The current process for IRC recommendations does not incorporate a direct meeting between applicants and recommenders. Losier, who has contacted administrators, believes that this process is opaque and undermines the IRC’s role as a stand-alone committee.

“This action by the administration calls into question how independent the IRC is.... There’s some sort of vetting of what’s acceptable and unacceptable for the IRC. The SG nomination is the only transparent part of the process,” he said.

SG President and fourth-year Michael McCown cited Losier’s experience in student government, participation on a similar police review committee in 2010, as well as his arrest as reasons for his recommendation.

“The experience that Toussaint had precisely qualifies him,” McCown said. “I don’t see the principle. It implies anyone who has a problem with the police in any way is no longer capable of reviewing police conduct.”

The SG executive slate has chosen to recommend fifth-year Ph.D candidate Hannah Chazin in Losier’s place. Chazin, along with undergraduate nominee third-year Emma Labounty and the nominee from the professional schools have been approved by Daugherty.

It is not unheard of for administrators to reject SG nominations to committees, and it has happened in the recent past, according to former SG VP for Administration Douglas Everson (A.B. ’13), who was on the IRC last year.

Losier, who is black, expressed concern with the racial makeup of past IRC committees, considering that many complaints made about the UCPD involve issues of racial profiling.

Since March of 2005, 66 of the 83 cases the committee has reviewed have involved a complainant whose race was listed as black, according to the IRC report.

“Looking at past IRC reports, there’s a disproportionate number of student and community complaints that come from people of color, and one of the unfortunate aspects is the IRC doesn’t have many people of color. My participation would have been an opportunity to take that into account,” he said.