NEWS

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February 6, 2004

Students mobilize against brutality

Concerned students and members of the University community met at the Social Service Administration (SSA) building to begin organizing a response to the alleged January 24 police brutality incident against a black SSA student.

The group—a diverse body of graduate and undergraduate students, University administrators, and a few concerned community members that altogether numbers about 25—is forming a movement to stop what they consider to be unacceptable behavior of individual members of the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD).

The meeting opened with the reading of a draft of a letter that will to be sent to Rudolph E. Nimocks, the executive director of the UCPD. Though the specifics of the letter were still undecided, meeting organizers plan to use it as a formal complaint against the UCPD and the University as a whole concerning police brutality.

Primarily a brainstorming and agenda-setting session, attendants were read an account of the January 24 incident and then asked to suggest ways in which the community could respond. Early in the session, Administrators informed the group that both a University committee as well as an internal UCPD review were already looking into the incident.

As organizers of the meeting were quick to point out, however, the University has claimed for years that it is sensitive to the issues of police brutality and racial profiling, but incidents continue to occur. The group believed that more stringent efforts are needed for significant change.

Citing the Norton Report, which is a report of the University of Chicago Faculty Committee on Minority Concerns issued in December 1985, the meeting's organizers said it was clear that the University's attempts to create a more sensitive UCPD were not working. Though the Norton Report identifies certain actions of the UCPD as unacceptable and recommends that they be changed immediately, individuals at the meeting said these actions are still widely practiced today, 17 years after the report was filed.

Students voiced the concern at the meeting that the nature of the UCPD put it at odds with the Hyde Park community in general. "My question is what happens to people in the community," said Akia Mitchell, a second-year in the College and a member of the Organization of Black Students. "People have a right to walk down the street."

Once the group began to discuss objectives and strategy, organizers asked administrators and representatives from the press to leave. They promised to issue a statement highlighting the decisions they had made and their plans for the future.

As the meeting ended and attendants made their way out of the SSA building, it became clear that many thought this meeting should have occurred a long time ago. "I was outraged but not surprised," Paul Robeson Ford, a second-year ministry student in the Divinity School, said about the January 24 incident.

Others echoed his words. "Shocked but not surprised," said Alex Goldenberg, a second-year in the College. Niki Nakazawa, a first-year in the College, said the same thing: "I was shocked but not surprised. The University has a history of racism and police brutality."

Khristina LiCals, a student at the SSA who did not attend the meeting, had a different reaction. "I was shocked and surprised as well," she said. "But maybe that makes me optimistic."