Campus Reform | Facing calls to abolish police, university rebrands officers as 'constables'

Facing calls to abolish police, university rebrands officers as 'constables'

The move comes as the University of Toronto has faced calls to reform its campus safety department.

In 2020, faculty and students demanded that the university defund and abolish its police.

The University of Toronto’s police service rebranded their officers to “constables,” a move the school describes as adapting to changing “community expectations.”

“Our Service's re-branding to Campus Safety will better reflect the robust range of public safety services that we provide to the University community,” the university statement explains. “Our Service's re-brand comes with a fresh new visual identity — one that we believe is approachable, accessible and distinguishable.”

University of Toronto Campus Police will now call itself the “University of Toronto Campus Safety — Special Constable Service,” a change the school says will be visible on the service’s website, vehicles, and uniforms. 

[RELATED: UPenn police reform downplays 'value' of crime reduction in violent neighborhood]

The move comes in the wake of widespread anti-police activism on Toronto’s campus.

In August of 2020, several dozen professors and students signed a letter demanding that administrators “immediately begin a comprehensive process for defunding and abolishing Campus Police and creating anti-carceral community safety initiatives.” The demands included funding to be reallocated toward “the hiring of more counselors and trained personnel to support students in crisis.”

[RELATED: Fewer officers and more experts? 'Re-imagining' of campus safety is underway at Stanford.]

Sociology professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah told Canadian outlet CTV News that defunding the police involves “a reallocation or a reassignment of certain tasks and functions that we recognize that the police aren't performing very well, that there are negative outcomes to their involvement in those activities such as increased risk for the use of violence and potential for criminalization.”

"The very organizations, agencies and institutions that we've been defunding over the past 20 years should be seeing those funds so we would be talking social welfare services, child welfare services, education, and then it could trickle down as well to community programming," he added.

Campus Reform reached out to the University of Toronto for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

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