Students meet with DUPD to address campus concernsApproximately 15 students met with University officials, including Chief of Police John Dailey, to voice concerns about the Duke University Police Department's treatment of students of color Tuesday.
The meeting, scheduled approximately a month ago, happened to come the day after Durham resident Jeffrey Alan Velez, 20, was apprehended on campus for allegedly stealing junior Alexa Frink's backpack, said senior Marcus Benning, former president of the Black Student Alliance. The arrest—which was filmed in a video—was considered by some to be overly aggressive and did become part of the discussion.
Vice President and University Secretary Richard Riddell did not permit reporters from The Chronicle to enter the room.
"I would describe the meeting as a positive step in the right direction," Benning said in an interview afterward. "I think we have forged a better partnership."
Some of the specific points raised in the meeting have long been concerns of black students and other minority students, Benning noted. He said that some students of color report being asked to produce identification to use Duke Vans when others do not.
Dailey could not be reached for comment in time for publication.
Benning also said that black students develop a sense of "hypersurveillance" by DUPD, often following reports of a crime and a suspect through DukeAlerts.
"There has been a continuum of events that have heightened students' sense of distrust toward DUPD," Benning explained. "I think it took some of the administrators off-guard."
The meeting resulted in some concrete responses and steps from administrators, Benning noted.
Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh confirmed via email Tuesday that the University will remind Duke Vans drivers that all passengers should be asked to show their DukeCard. He could not be reached for additional comment in time for publication.
For handling DukeAlerts, Benning said some students presented the model used by Columbia University as an alternative. At Columbia, race is not immediately mentioned as a descriptor of the suspect until more facts are established. Benning noted that a suspect's skin tone is often used to infer his or her race, even though the inference may be inaccurate.
Another recommendation included purchasing body cameras for police officers to record their activities, Benning added. Administrators seemed open to the idea, though they expressed concerns about the cost of such cameras.
Although the meeting was planned well before Velez's arrest, the incident had an emotional resonance with many students, some who personally have experience with racial profiling and aggressive police tactics, said senior Jacob Tobia, who attended the meeting.
"I hope that administrators include more student voices," added senior Adrienne Harreveld, a columnist for The Chronicle who attended the meeting. "We're trying to help officers understand the concerns of students of color and develop greater empathy for their experiences."