At Duke University, no voices raised in support of its campus police

FPI / July 30, 2020

Analysis by Paul Crespo

As the orchestrated national surge of anti-police agitation continues, a new student group at Duke University is demanding that Duke disband its campus police department. The Duke Black Coalition Against Policing (BCAP) sent its list of extreme and unyielding demands in a nine-page manifesto to university administrators and Trustees on July 8, according to a report by Duke’s student paper, The Chronicle.

‘I am not aware of anyone defending Duke Police,’ prominent media attorney John Bussian in Raleigh, NC, who has multiple personal and professional ties to the university, told FPI.

In its letter, BCAP argued that all policing is “inherently rooted in white supremacy,” and called on Duke to sever all “ties to all systems predicated on policing and imprisonment.” This group was clear that it is not interested in dialogue or reform, stating in the letter’s opening:

Let us state this unequivocally: originating in slave patrols, policing is inherently rooted in white supremacy and cannot be reformed. Now, we must imagine a world beyond police and prisons, one that seeks to heal and rebuild our communities from generations of systemic violence.

According to The Chronicle, Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, wrote in an email that the Duke administration “is reviewing the statement and will engage directly with the student organizations involved.”

This response alone has angered some Duke Alumni: “By the administration’s patronization (even considering them) of their demands, this says it all and then some,” one Duke alumnus told Free Press International (FPI) on condition of anonymity.

The demand letter was signed by over 50 groups and “an accompanying petition in support of the demands has nearly 1,000 signatures from alumni, students and community members,” reported the CollegeFix.

Duke has not yet expressed any support for its own police, or for the need to provide for student safety — and few voices have been heard decrying this radical idea. Many seem to not take it seriously, others remain quiet out of fear, but the result is the same.

“I am not aware of anyone defending Duke Police,” prominent media attorney John Bussian, a Duke graduate who represents the Duke Student Publishing Company, told FPI.

Nor does anyone seem to be advocating for the safety of the students at Duke, or the families of the students who may be concerned about the university’s handling of these demands. The Duke Parents Association and Duke Alumni Association did not respond to requests for comment.

The Duke University Campus Police Department told The Chronicle that the department is open to working with the students.

“Being open to listening, to understanding and to changing for the good of Duke is central to what we do,” Duke University police department Chief John Dailey told The Chronicle. However, based on the intransigent BCAP demand letter, dialogue and reform do not appear likely.

Related: Dear Duke: Citizen journalist rallies support for defunding universities, July 7, 2020

“Reformist policies often legitimize racist systems in the first place by asserting that the stems of the issue can be amended without addressing the root cause,” BCAP said in its letter. “Thus, we as a collective are not interested in reformist ideals.”

Some fear that these outrageous demands and the groups’ intransigence — combined with any university perceived weakness in the face of these demands — can only lead to more outrageous demands.

“As long as the students say ‘jump’ and the administration says ‘how high,’ this will continue,” said another Duke Alumnus, and former professional athlete, on background to Free Press International.

The Durham Police Department, which could be seriously impacted if Duke were to disband its campus police — since they most likely would be forced to do the campus policing themselves — also declined to comment.

Not long ago, these radical demands would have provoked a loud outcry, but now the silence is deafening. How has it come to this? One prominent Duke alumnus said, “Lack of a culture is a culture. This didn’t happen overnight.”

BCAP requested the University respond by July 21 and release information “disclosing any financial ties to organizations associated with the ‘military and prison-industrial complex,’ including relationships with the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” by Aug. 17.

There has been no word on whether the University responded by July 21, and University officials, from the President to the Provost and others, did not respond to requests for comments.

FPI, Free Press International

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