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Students Press Universities To Cut Ties with Cops

Minnesota campus will no longer contract with local police for event security

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The University of Minnesota Twin Cities (UMN) announced it will end contracts with the Minneapolis Police Department following the death of George Floyd, sparking nationwide calls for colleges to cut ties with local law enforcement.

UMN president Joan Gabel announced in a letter the school would no longer contract with the Minneapolis Police Department to provide law enforcement support for large university events, such as football games. The order extends not only to crowd control, but to "specialized services," including bomb detection dogs. UMN's divestment came after Jael Kerandi, the school's undergraduate student body president, demanded the university cease all partnerships with the Minneapolis police.

"We clearly and without hesitation DEMAND that the University of Minnesota Police Department ceases [sic] any partnerships with the Minneapolis Police Department immediately," Kerandi wrote in a letter to top university officials. "A man was murdered. It is our job as an institution to exert whatever pressure we can to keep our students safe and demand justice in our city and state. We expect a reply to this concern within 24 hours of receipt."

Kerandi signed the note as "Jael Kerandi A black woman." She did not respond to request for comment.

A spokesman for UMN said the college "will partner with other law enforcement agencies" for security needs that campus police cannot handle. He said UMN is in the process of "considering its options for these services in the future," but noted the current health pandemic does not currently permit the university to host any large events. UMN's police chief and the Minneapolis Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.

The movement to sever ties with local police departments has spread nationwide thanks to a petition that has won the support of graduate students, union members, and campus activists. The statement calls for universities to break ties with police departments and "private security companies," redirect divested funds to provide educational opportunities for communities impacted by police violence, commit resources to community-led police alternatives, propose plans to stop racial profiling by campus police, and issue statements condemning the murder of Floyd.

As of June 5, the petition had signatures from 113 unions and organizations and 2,255 individuals. The petitioners also called on union organizations—including the nation's largest labor group, the AFL-CIO—to break ties with all police unions. The AFL-CIO did not respond to requests for comment.

Calls for police divestment are not unique to colleges. On Tuesday, Minnesota representative Ilhan Omar (D.) called for all public schools to end contracts with the police, including police resource officers. "Police brutality doesn't just happen in the streets…. It happens in our schools," she said.

Some Democrats in Congress are calling to completely defund and abolish the police. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.), said police should be defunded because of "decades of structural racism that created the system that allows police officer after police officer off the hook for murders."