To improve trust with students, the University of Minnesota's police force should wear body cameras and no longer have access to military-grade weapons, an external review has concluded.
The university on Tuesday shared the findings of the outside review of its campus Police Department, which was ordered last fall after student demands for law enforcement accountability following George Floyd's death. Among dozens of recommendations, the report suggests the U should consider an "unarmed policing approach," better distinguish when its officers should assist local agencies with off-campus incidents, and review its department's stops, arrests and complaints for possible disparities.
"This review is an important next step in learning more about what it means for all members of our campus community to feel respected, included and safe," U President Joan Gabel said in a statement.
Gabel committed to immediately act on four recommendations: Equipping campus officers with body cameras, meeting regularly with the Minneapolis and St. Paul mayors to coordinate public safety response, purchasing a campus safety app for students and employees, and transferring oversight of the department to the university's senior vice president of finance and operations, Myron Frans.
An advisory group of students, staff and faculty will analyze the recommendations and come up with a final plan, Gabel said. University police were not made available for comment.
The review was conducted by Cedric Alexander, a former police chief and member of President Barack Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Through Jan. 20, the U paid Alexander $125,000 for five months of consulting, according to his contract.
Alexander held more than 70 listening sessions with students, employees, administrators and campus police officers. Many students and employees told Alexander they feared being harmed by campus cops, according to the report. Students of color recalled being racially profiled, and student leaders and activists pointed to recent peaceful protests where officers showed up with batons and shields.
But some students expressed support for campus officers and raised concerns about crime near campus, saying they felt unsafe walking at night. Officers told Alexander they felt unappreciated by the campus community, noting "there has been a real shift since the George Floyd incident."
Alexander recommended the university "demilitarize" its Police Department by eliminating the use of military-grade weapons and vehicles. The U should also consider redesigning officers' uniforms to better distinguish them from other agencies, the report says.
He suggested more ways to encourage feedback on the department, including forums and having officers provide their contact information.
Campus community members should have a say in the selection process for new hires, the report says. And new officers should be required to intern with student groups as part of onboarding.
U regents will hear the findings in February.
"It seems very comprehensive and wide-ranging," U senior and Board of Regents candidate James Farnsworth said of the report. "I think that all UMPD officers should absolutely be equipped with bodycams."
Ryan Faircloth • 612-673-4234