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Letter to the Editor: Calls to defund Campus Police lack evidence

Re: “Opinion: U of T’s awareness of anti-Black racism isn’t enough — it must defund Campus Police”
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TROY LAWRENCE/THE VARSITY
TROY LAWRENCE/THE VARSITY

I write this letter in response to an article entitled “U of T’s awareness of anti-Black racism isn’t enough — it must defund Campus Police,” which was published in the September 28, 2020 print edition of The Varsity. The article was quite problematic on several fronts and merits a response to address its claims in the interests of truth.

The fact remains that Campus Police has been indispensable in ensuring both infrastructure and individuals at the University of Toronto are safe and secure.

Campus Police keep records of vandalization, thefts from being rampant, and vagrants from entering buildings. It also maintains order at public events — such as protests, meetings, parades, and ceremonies — and runs numerous campaigns and initiatives — such as UTAlert, TravelSafer, the Telephone Emergency Locations System, and STOP Security Plates — to support its other endeavours. In a city where crime is acute, our community feels safe enough to walk, work, study, and remain active on campus, which is a testament to Campus Police’s effectiveness.

Everyone at U of T — regardless of their race, gender, or beliefs — has benefitted from its service, and Campus Police’s low visibility gives credence to its quiet professionalism. As a racialized student who has lived and worked on campus for over two years, I can wholeheartedly attest to this.

It now remains to evaluate the article’s claims against reality — with which it is incongruous. In claiming that “police brutality” has existed at U of T — with a “racial” undertone being implied — the article did not provide specific examples that reflect a pattern of institutional racism beyond one instance of a student being handcuffed by police when under mental duress. It did not evaluate a single rule of engagement, administrative practice, investigative protocol, or any other statute or policy when making this assessment.

Indeed, contrary to the title, the article’s actual engagement with the question of “defunding Campus Police” was thin at best — comprising merely a few short paragraphs of descriptive action by other groups and largely assessing other U of T initiatives to combat racism. That any reasonable person could assess that Campus Police is systemically brutal or racist — much less that it requires defunding — from such a piece is absurd.

Scrutineers often ignore the vast majority of peaceful and productive interactions between police and citizens — including minoritized community members. The fact remains that such general trends cannot be sweepingly interpolated down to individual forces without assessing their personal merits.

If such logic were followed, Campus Police wouldn’t face current calls for “defunding”; a measure that I believe would make us less safe and add to our collective worries.

To that end, instead of heeding the ignorant cries for “defunding” or, even worse, “abolition,” communities like our own should bolster our police with more tools, training, and capabilities to respond to developments in law enforcement and criminal justice. Additionally, we should not target services for the mere sake of virtue-signalling on matters of race or otherwise, which unfairly and ironically skews their ability to benefit us all.

Most importantly, we must respect Campus Police and law enforcement for their service — for the risks and efforts they undertake daily. As a university, it falls on us to set an example for society; it’s time we started with the right one.

Arjun Singh is a fourth-year political science and international relations student at New College.