On Campus Police Forces

Published April 2021.

Campus police forces are not immune to broader injustices in US law enforcement, and these injustices intersect with core AAUP concerns over shared governance and academic freedom. In July 2020, the AAUP appointed a Campus Police Working Group and charged its members with drafting a report on the role of police on campus, the appropriateness of higher education institutions’ having their own police forces, the impact of systemic racism on campus policing, and changes needed to ensure that campuses are safe and welcoming for diverse peoples, especially those who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

The intended purpose of the report on campus police forces is threefold: 

  1. To provide an historical overview of the development of campus police forces that contextualizes their relatively recent existence in the US academy and their alarming rates of expansion and militarization, with particular attention to their role in perpetuating systemic racism and inequities. 
  2. To demonstrate the clear tensions between the AAUP’s core values and the existence and function of campus police forces.
  3. To urge AAUP chapters to address campus policing issues and provide guidance to help AAUP chapter leaders mount campaigns to transform campus public safety. 

The report's first section analyzes the history and development of campus police forces, emphasizing their recent expansion and role in perpetuating racial oppression and the quelling of dissent. The second section argues that the present form and function of campus police forces is in tension with core AAUP values and therefore urges AAUP chapters to use their power to change this situation. The third section provides a set of questions chapter leaders should ask themselves to understand the nature of their campus police forces and what, if anything, they wish to change about them. The fourth section contains advice for chapter leaders derived from examples of AAUP chapters currently engaged in antiracist organizing and efforts to reform, disarm, defund, or abolish their campus police forces. The report concludes with suggestions for the AAUP national organization on how it can best support chapters in this work and emphasizes the intersections with AAUP’s efforts to become an antiracist organization. The appendix contains detailed profiles of three AAUP chapters presently organizing to transform campus public safety so that members may find inspiration and insight in these examples. 

This report provides a foundation for the national AAUP, as the flagship organization of faculty in the United States, to encourage and enable chapters to work in coalition with other publicly minded groups to transform campus safety into something more just, accountable, and effective, up to and including reorganizing campus safety in toto. 

Download the complete report.

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