Panel sug­gests UNC cre­ate mo­bile po­lice units for protests

The Herald Sun - - Front Page - BY TAMMY GRUBB AND JANE STANCILL [email protected]­ald­sun.com js­tan­[email protected]­sob­server.com

A panel of se­cu­rity ex­perts rec­om­mended this week that UNC-Chapel Hill in­vest in of­fi­cer train­ing and the cre­ation of a “mo­bile force pla­toon” to re­spond to cam­pus vi­o­lence and civil disobedience.

The panel, which was tasked with re­view­ing the Silent Sam Con­fed­er­ate statue protests, also rec­om­mended that the UNC Board of Gover­nors cre­ate a mo­bile po­lice force to re­spond to in­ci­dents at any cam­pus in the UNC sys­tem.

The panel es­ti­mated a sys­temwide force could cost $2 mil­lion a year, plus $500,000 ini­tially for equip­ment. No cost was men­tioned for a new UNC Po­lice pla­toon at the Chapel Hill cam­pus.

The univer­sity “faces a high risk of vi­o­lence, civil dis­or­der and prop­erty dam­age” if the statue is re­stored to cam­pus, the panel said in its re­port to UNC Chan­cel­lor Carol Folt and the UNC Board of Trustees.

“The ca­pa­bil­ity of the UNCChapel Hill Cam­pus Po­lice Depart­ment to pre­vent civil dis­or­der and vi­o­lence is very lim­ited,” the panel said.

The re­port was in an ap­pen­dix to Mon­day’s Silent Sam pro­posal to the trustees. Folt did not men­tion the po­lice rec­om­men­da­tions as she talked about a pro­posed $5.3 mil­lion Univer­sity His­tory and Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter to house Silent Sam.

The cen­ter would have sta­teof-the-art se­cu­rity and would be a “non-pub­lic” fo­rum, al­low­ing UNC to set “con­tent-neu­tral” re­stric­tions for pub­lic safety and the statue’s preser­va­tion. It also would of­fer ex­hibits and op­por­tu­ni­ties to learn about the univer­sity’s his­tory.

The UNC Board of Gover­nors and the N.C. State His­tor­i­cal Com­mis­sion still must ap­prove the plan, which Folt said was based on the panel’s se­cu­rity rec­om­men­da­tions.

The panel – two former FBI as­sis­tant di­rec­tors, two former po­lice chiefs and a re­tired ma­jor gen­eral with the U.S. Army Spe­cial Forces Com­mand – was cre­ated after the Au­gust protests. Panel mem­bers re­ferred all ques­tions to UNC pub­lic re­la­tions of­fi­cials, who said the pan­elists would not be avail­able for in­ter­views.

UNC al­ready is un­der fire for its po­lice re­sponse to the Silent

Sam protests on McCorkle Place, with stu­dent and com­mu­nity protesters telling Chapel Hill’s town gov­ern­ment that they don’t feel safe with po­lice on cam­pus.

Maya Lit­tle, a grad­u­ate stu­dent who has been in­volved in anti-Silent Sam protests, crit­i­cized univer­sity lead­ers not only for the pro­posal to build a new home for the Con­fed­er­ate statue but also for the plan to ramp up po­lice ac­tiv­ity against stu­dents.

The Board of Trustees and Folt pro­pose that the univer­sity spend mil­lions of dol­lars an­nu­ally “to in­crease the polic­ing and sur­veil­lance of stu­dent and com­mu­nity protesters,” Lit­tle said at Mon­day night’s protest. “This also fits with the univer­sity’s and Chapel Hill’s legacy of polic­ing anti-racist ac­tivists and its dis­re­gard for black peo­ple.”

The cam­pus po­lice have not treated neo-Con­fed­er­ates in the same man­ner, Lit­tle said, de­spite re­peated threats against stu­dents.

“We al­ready know the po­lice are here to pro­tect neo-Nazis,” she said. “We al­ready know Chapel Hill po­lice and UNC po­lice are not here for us.”

Lit­tle was charged Tues­day with as­sault­ing an of­fi­cer and in­cit­ing a riot, fol­low­ing the lat­est protest.

Lind­say Ayling, a UNC grad­u­ate stu­dent, told protesters Mon­day night that they were brave for at­tend­ing the event. In past events, she said, she has seen friends “slammed on cold brick or put in choke­holds by po­lice for no rea­son.”

It was not clear whether the pro­posed UNC pla­toon or mo­bile force would be sim­i­lar to a spe­cial Civil Emer­gency Unit that the Greens­boro Po­lice Depart­ment sent to help with an Aug. 30 Silent Sam protest at UNC. That unit, spe­cially trained to han­dle civil up­ris­ings, was blasted for ag­gres­sively us­ing bikes to move protesters and for pep­per spray­ing the crowd.

A UNC spokes­woman did not an­swer ques­tions about the panel’s re­port – in­clud­ing the def­i­ni­tion of a mo­bile pla­toon – and said it ap­peared that a ver­sion of this story posted on­line Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon had an­swered most of the ques­tions.

“In terms of the pro­posed mo­bile com­mand, these are rec­om­men­da­tions from the se­cu­rity panel to the Univer­sity,” spokes­woman Joanne Pe­ters Denny said in an email. “The Univer­sity is re­view­ing these rec­om­men­da­tions and will eval­u­ate if any nec­es­sary next steps are needed.”

UNC’s panel had a dif­fer­ent take on what hap­pened, say­ing some protesters pose a con­tin­u­ing threat, like those “who have acted ag­gres­sively and un­law­fully.” Most are not as­so­ci­ated with UNC, they said.

“Even if our law en­force­ment re­sources were at a greatly en­hanced level and sup­ported by all avail­able city, town or county mo­bile forces, such as from Char­lotte or Greens­boro,” the panel said, “the threat would re­main high with re­spect to both pub­lic safety and the abil­ity to pre­serve the Mon­u­ment.”

The “great­est risk” is ex­trem­ists in­side protest and counter-protest groups, it said, point­ing to an in­creas­ing num­ber of threats and calls for vi­o­lence on so­cial me­dia.

“Dur­ing these [Silent Sam demon­stra­tions] there was ob­vi­ous ev­i­dence of pre­plan­ning and tac­tics that were de­signed to in­sti­gate vi­o­lence be­tween protest groups or draw an over-re­ac­tion from law en­force­ment,” the re­port said.

The “re­cent de­ci­sions of some Or­ange County judges add to the se­cu­rity risk,” the panel said with­out elab­o­rat­ing.

Or­ange County District Court judges Saman­tha Cabe and Bev­erly Scar­lett so far have dis­missed charges or de­ferred pros­e­cut­ing those charged in con­nec­tion with the protests. Those who were found guilty, in­clud­ing Lit­tle, did not re­ceive any pun­ish­ment.

Scar­lett has been the most out­spo­ken, com­par­ing Silent Sam to Adolph Hitler and blam­ing UNC

for the protest vi­o­lence.

But the prob­lem of more cam­pus protests and vi­o­lence is not lim­ited to UNC, the panel said. Very few cam­pus po­lice de­part­ments are equipped to han­dle the dra­matic changes in protests over the past few years, it said.

The In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Cam­pus Law En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tors re­ports the num­ber of armed of­fi­cers on col­lege cam­puses grew 10 per­cent be­tween 2004 and 2012, out­pac­ing the growth of stu­dent en­roll­ment.

Roughly 92 per­cent of pub­lic U.S. col­leges with 2,500 or more stu­dents and 38 per­cent of pri­vate col­leges had po­lice agen­cies by 2012, U.S. Bu­reau of Jus­tice sur­veys show. More re­cent data was not im­me­di­ately avail­able.

UNC Po­lice – which has com­manded the re­sponse

to protests on cam­pus – and UNC of­fi­cials have not an­swered ques­tions about that re­sponse.

The U.S. Bu­reau of Jus­tice re­ported in 2015 that the univer­sity had 207 full-time em­ploy­ees – in­clud­ing 53 sworn of­fi­cers – in 2011-12, mak­ing it the eighth-largest law en­force­ment agency on a U.S. col­lege cam­pus. The univer­sity also had 126 part­time em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing 12 part-time sworn of­fi­cers, the re­port said.

The Jus­tice Bu­reau re­port shows the num­ber of UNC sworn of­fi­cers is higher than the av­er­age of 38 of­fi­cers re­ported by many pub­lic cam­puses with 15,000 or more stu­dents.

UNC re­quires new of­fi­cers to be state cer­ti­fied with 618 hours of Ba­sic Law En­force­ment Train­ing and to com­plete an­other 48 hours of train­ing for re-cer­ti­fi­ca­tion each year. The agency also is one of 59 col­lege po­lice de­part­ments ac­cred­ited by the Com­mis­sion on Ac­cred­i­ta­tion for Law En­force­ment Agen­cies, and one of only three ac­cred­ited agen­cies in North Carolina, UNC Po­lice have re­ported.

UNC Po­lice al­ready is mak­ing changes, but more train­ing is needed, the panel said, par­tic­u­larly in in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing, crowd con­trol, protest man­age­ment and op­er­a­tional plans. UNC also should im­prove its mu­tual aid re­la­tion­ships with agen­cies that can pro­vide “mob field force units,” the panel said.

UNC has mu­tual aid agree­ments with law en­force­ment agen­cies in Car­rboro, Chapel Hill, Hills­bor­ough and Durham; Chatham, Or­ange and Durham coun­ties; and six UNC sys­tem uni­ver­si­ties, ac­cord­ing to the agency’s an­nual se­cu­rity re­port.

But the panel warned against re­ly­ing too much on other agen­cies, be­cause there could be chal­lenges, from not be­ing able to re­spond on short no­tice to po­lit­i­cal pres­sure and the grow­ing cost of large-scale protest re­sponses.

Chapel Hill Chief Chris Blue told the Town Coun­cil in Septem­ber that the first two protests “had a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on lo­cal re­sources” and staff, and that it was “not a sus­tain­able propo­si­tion.”

TRAVIS LONG [email protected]­sob­[email protected]­sob­ser

Sev­eral hun­dred de­mon­stra­tors face off with po­lice Mon­day night at a bar­ri­cade around the boarded up base of the Silent Sam Con­fed­er­ate statue at UNC-Chapel Hill. The protest fol­lowed UNC trustees’ rec­om­men­da­tion to build a $5.3 mil­lion cen­ter that would house the statue.

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