Police reform efforts—over decades, on and off campus—have failed. Policing is rooted in violence against Black, Native, and other targeted communities. We call for investing in and expanding our safety and well-being beyond policing. Toward that end, we demand that the University of Washington (UW): 1) Dismantle UWPD, repurposing the annual budget and the UWPD headquarters towards actual student life not state violence and 2) Cancel all contracts where the University subsidizes law enforcement organizations, including the city of Bothell Police Department.
When we say “decriminalize UW,” we mean that the university must respond to the current crises — state violence against Black people, the COVID-19 pandemic, and looming budget cuts — by adopting measures to address long-standing inequities and injustices. Thousands of people and hundreds of organizations have signed petitions to defund UWPD and invest in Black life at the University of Washington. As colleges and cities across the United States, including the Seattle City Council, take unprecedented steps toward reimagining community safety and racial justice, President Cauce and other leaders at UW have failed to reconsider budget priorities, systemic practices, and symbolic representations of racial injustice on the Seattle campus. At UW, this builds from a longer history, one that we trace to the founding of UW Black Student Union as part of the Black Power movement and the call for ethnic studies. http://depts.washington.edu/labpics/zenPhoto/uw_bsu/uw_library/BSU-Letter-to-Odegaard-May-6-1968/
Our calls to decriminalize UW are aligned with two key efforts:
BSU’s 7 demands to the UW administration, including disarming and defunding UWPD: https://www.change.org/p/university-of-washington-administration-demand-for-the-university-of-washington-administration-to-meet-the-needs-of-black-students and
UW CCT’s call to Cancel the Contract with Bothell PD, increase accountability and transparency in line with proposals to reimagine community safety: https://linktr.ee/uwbsafety
UWPD Does Not Keep Us Safe
UW should spend its state- and student-funded budget to protect our community, not police it. Armed police officers do not prevent violence. Armed police officers create a militarized climate that intimidates and alienates BIPOC communities, in part through arrests for “trespassing” and “criminal impersonation” that target people who appear Black, poor, or houseless. Why do we need armed police officers to investigate stolen bicycles? More than 90% of the calls to UWPD are to report missing bicycles.
When Black students said that UWPD was racist and a threat to their lives, President Cauce claimed that she receives more complaints about her faculty’s disrespect for diversity than her police force. In 2019, UW hired an investigator who found that UWPD has a “culture of fear.” Now, all Black rank-and-file police officers are taking legal action against UW for “unbearable racism”. UW’s response was to place a want ad for more cops on campus.
Every time organizers demand less police violence, the Administration just spends money for another task force and bigger police budgets
Why does the University spend more money on hiring a new police officer (in excess of $100,000 with overtime) than a tenure-track professor in the College of Arts and Sciences? UWPD has grown exponentially over the last four decades. Even as resources for education and student life faced steep cuts, UWPD’s budget and personnel have expanded in size and scope. Although UWPD does not disclose its budget to the public, we know that the Office of Student Life allocates more than $8 million per year to UWPD alone. (This does not include security at South Campus, Harborview, Tacoma or Bothell campuses.) At the same time, UWPD repeatedly hired officers with disciplinary records, including the former police chief who is still on the payroll of the Office of Student Life. It was only after sustained demands from 10,000 members of the UW community and over 150 organizations that the administration committed to stop hiring officers who have been disciplined for ethics, use of force, bias, or other serious violations.
Although President Cauce claimed that the UW had no active contracts with local police forces, students at UW Bothell discovered that the UW has an active and on-going contract with the Bothell police force. The UW contractually subsidises the Bothell police force by more than a $371,214 in 2019 and 2020 for a so-called “store front” officer stationed on the UW Bothell campus. UW renewed the contract in 2021 over protests of students, workers, and faculty using our education budget to subsidize a local police force without the consent of the university community. We must end the education to criminalization pipeline and the university’s role in growing police budgets.
We say no more taskforces, no more “independent investigations,” no more DEI consultations, no more new police chiefs, no more anti-Black racism — it’s time to dismantle UWPD.
Dismantling UWPD Won’t Give Us a “Cop-Free Campus”, We’ll Just have a Campus that Isn’t Double-Policed
There is already a police force in the city — SPD has jurisdiction for all crimes and regularly are on and off-campus. Today, UWPD shares everything with SPD — 911 call information, scanner channels and “counterinsurgency” on the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
UWPD isn’t better than city police departments; UWPD is made up of relocated cops from city police departments and county sheriff’s offices
In 2014, UW created an “EZ Hire” lateral hiring process that invites local police officers and sheriffs to bypass parts of the HR process if they are currently employed. We know that cops often switch jobs and jurisdictions to avoid accountability and hearings that might lead to a negative disciplinary record. EZ Hire is part of this system, where we get former Seattle Police Department officers. For example, UWPD hired SPD officer Dahmar Smiles, who eventually left after being charged with domestic battery of another UWPD employee. UWPD is part of the same merry-go-round of violent police culture, and it’s time for us to leave the ride.
How has the campaign to decriminalize UW changed?
- On June 15, 2020, President Cauce committed to “not hiring any officers who have previously been disciplined for any ethics, use of force, violence, bias, and any other serious violations.”
- On September 9, 2020, President Cauce committed “not to contract with the Seattle Police Department for security on our campus for football games or any other events on campus.” President Cauce, however, failed to mention that UW Bothell has an active contract with Bothell PD that they renewed without transparency or accountability to the campus community. Check out this linktree to see a copy of the contract and learn about Bothell student activism: https://linktr.ee/uwbsafety