Defund the Police. It’s an idea that many have latched onto since the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. However, the idea itself is unpopular and misguided. Yet, its ideas are still being pushed by many on campus.
Throughout last semester you may have noticed an increase in student protests related to policing. The student group, Cops Off Campus, predominantly led these protests. The group openly advocates for the abolishment of campus police.
If you’re a freshman, you may also remember the interruption of the student commencement at the beginning of last semester by the same group.
The group’s most recent protest, which took place last November, was in response to the $8 million investment in UTPD. A spokesman for the organization who identified himself as John said that the increased police presence “would make shootings more common because there is less money going to mental health services.”
I’ve run into similar ideas multiple times on campus aside from these protests, most notably in the Senate of College Council’s Campus Safety Beyond Policing event last November. Most students actively expressed feeling endangered by the very officers meant to protect them and advocated instead for increased funding to Longhorn EMS or the CMHC.
However, many of these ideas are built on an unstable foundation. To those who express such sentiments, whether in Student Government or protesting on Speedway, I would ask if they believe that increasing those services would truly lead to more safety on campus. In a city of nearly a million people, where the campus is just a small stratum of the population, it is far better to deter crime from happening in the first place than to attempt to deal with the side effects with resources restricted to the 40 Acres.
With the failure of Proposition A, which would have increased funding to the Austin Police Department to hire more officers, UTPD will have to play an increasing role in ensuring the safety of students on campus as APD response times continue to increase and crime goes unpunished.
According to the Director of Communications and Strategic Marketing for UTPD, Stephanie Jackis, the recent investment “will help the Department increase officer presence, while shortening response times.”
The increasing prevalence of anti-police demonstrations is worrying, and if the policies that the Cops Off Campus group advocated for were actually put into practice, it would become dangerous.
“Officer presence can often deter crime in the area,” Jackis said. “The impact of less officers would result in slower response times.” As we have seen throughout Austin, slower response times lead to a higher likelihood of suspects escaping, and they deter crime to a lesser degree than if officers were present in the community.
Whether it be shootings, robberies, or carjackings, I’ve been told that many feel unsafe when walking through West Campus. If we want to alleviate those concerns and create a safe 40 Acres for all students, we need to stop advocating against UTPD and instead advocate for them.