U Kansas Task Force encourages officers to log race of individuals stopped by police

The University of Kansas created a task force in August to make recommendations for better police practices.

The group's recommendations included encouraging officers to log the race of those stopped by officers.

A University of Kansas task force charged with improving policies and procedures of the Public Safety Office recommended recording the race of individuals stopped by officers.

The task force, which is made up of faculty, students, and staff, was created due to nation-wide tensions with law enforcement. The task force released a 44-page report on Nov. 10.

The Task Force on Community-Response Public Safety” was created by Chancellor Douglas Girod in August to take the “first step” in fighting racism. At the time, Girod said that the task force will review university public safety policies.

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“This new task force will be charged with reviewing KU Public Safety policies, practices and procedures; examining national best practices and proposals for change; and making recommendations to the Office of the Chancellor regarding potential improvements to ensure respectful, transparent and community-responsive public safety services,” Girod said.

The final report released in early November states that the group had identified three areas on which the recommendations were based.

“Our recommendations are grouped in the three areas identified above: responses to behavioral mental health crises, officer conduct and systems for managing conduct, particularly regarding officer interactions with members of historically marginalized groups, and advisory and oversight processes,” the report states.

One section of the report encourages the university police department to “continue” its initiative of officers recording data regarding the “race and ethnicity” of people stopped by KU officers.

“We recommend that KU PSO continue its new initiative to gather data on the race and ethnicity of persons stopped by KU officers and the outcomes of stops; that KU PSO publicly report statistical summaries of these data when they are available; and that KU PSO work to integrate the data into supervisory oversight of officers with the goal of reducing and eliminating any racial disparities in stops that may be revealed by the data,” the report states.

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The report states that the data collected from recording the racial and ethnic breakdown of people who KU police officers stop will be used to “identify patterns of racial bias in police stops by officer, location of stop and time.”

While recommending the collection of race and ethnicities of individuals stopped by officers, the report also recommends limiting the use of officers and involving health professionals more.

“Increase response and involvement of health professionals (and reduce the involvement of public safety officers) regarding students experiencing a behavioral mental health concern or crisis, including those involving substance use and abuse,” the report states.

Authors of the report sought expert advice regarding the handling of those with behavioral issues and acknowledged that handling such individuals can be complicated and jeopardize the safety of others involved.

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When writing the report, members of the task force heard from a group called Abolition KU. A petition started in June from Abolition KU calls to abolish the police department at the University and garnered more than 1,000 signatures. 

Campus Reform has previously reported on students demanding the abolition of police including at the University of California campuses and Northwestern University.

Campus Reform reached out to the University of Kansas, the Public Safety Office, and Girod, but did not receive a response in time for publication. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @mn_turn