The trend of militarizing campus security

The trend of giving public safety more police-inspired uniforms is yet another step backwards in addressing America’s systematic problems with organized law. enforcement

Robin Doyscher, Columnist

My first day back at Hamline almost fully in-person brought with it two shocks to my system: one, were there always this many people on campus? And two, those public safety officers sure look very different, huh? It seems that Hamline University has recently changed the look of public safety officers to fit more in-line with America’s current standard of police-issued uniforms. Gone are the light brown and beige tones of the former uniforms’ polos, and in are the black bulletproof vests with belts that can potentially hold police weapons. A recent petition with around 130 signatures states that the uniform change is disturbing given the amount of highly publicized police brutality within our own communities. 

Now, on one hand, I can see the rationale of more streamlined uniforms given the general political unrest of the Twin Cities (in no small part due to the death of George Floyd), and likely the return of a near full student body back to campus. However, Hamline is just another university joining the many colleges and universities that have either explicitly or implicitly militarized their campus security officers.Especially given the fact that campus police have a lot of power and jurisdiction within the bounds of their universities and yet less municipal accountability than regular officers. After George Floyd’s death, many colleges across America including in Michigan, California, Illinois and Connecticut called to disarm or even entirely disband their campus police forces. Many of these campus security officers receive weapons and equipment as forms of federal aid as well.Hamline University’s place within the greater Twin Cities is within the thriving cultural hub of Midway, a very predominantly Black, latine, and asian area. Many students of color, who may have to deal with over-policing in their daily lives off-campus may not feel comfortable with this type of environment being replicated at Hamline––even if public safety does not act the way America’s police do.

It’s difficult to admit, but a part of me did feel a bit more nervous, and not because I have committed many financial crimes at the height of the 2008 housing crisis (for legal purposes this is a joke), but because I have never truly felt more comfortable with increased police presence, or increased police equipment around. I understand Hamline’s idea, but we have to think about the precedent we’re setting. Students should not feel as though they might be surrounded by potential criminals, and public safety officers should first and foremost be dedicated to the welfare of the student body. Sure, I’m sure there’s at least some annoying PoliSci student that we’ve all wanted to see body slammed into the asphalt, but that’s an intrusive thought, not an actual invitation.

We have an actual opportunity to uphold the tenets of policing that America has seemed to forget––protect and serve. So, Hamline, please make the decision to let our campus security at least look more inconspicuous, if not for the sake of the students, then for the sake of letting our greater Midway community neighbors know that we are dedicated to displaying the core values that our nation claims and fails to adhere to.