Student Council begins applicant selection process for police advisory board

A selection committee is expected to choose board members by the end of November

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The Student Police Advisory Board has been tasked by Student Council with facilitating communication between the University community and UPD and to advise the Department on student concerns.

Christina Anton | Cavalier Daily

Student Council has begun the applicant selection process for its recently-established University Police Department advisory board. The application was available online to University students between Nov. 1 and Nov. 11 

Alex Cintron, Student Council president and a fourth-year College student, sent an email to the University student body Nov. 1 containing a link where students were able to apply to be on the Student Police Advisory Board. Cintron’s email encouraged  students “interested in improving the University’s safety and security” to apply for a position on the board.

The Student Police Advisory Board has been tasked by Student Council with facilitating communication between the University community and UPD and to advise the department on student concerns. The board’s first meeting will take place Nov. 28.

The application asked respondents to submit general information such as their name, computing ID, year and school, as well as their ethnic background, hometown and extracurricular involvements on Grounds. 

Members of the Student Police Advisory Board will be chosen from the applicant pool by a 10-person Selections Committee, of which Katie Kirk, a second-year College student and the chair of the Student Council Safety and Wellness Committee, is currently the chair. Kirk will also serve as one of two co-chairs of the Student Police Advisory Board. The other co-chair will be selected from among the applicants to the Board. 

“It’s not a committee that’s going to be making the changes themselves, they’re just going to be evaluating what’s going on and making recommendations for how UPD and overall general safety can improve at the University,” Kirk said. “The ultimate goal of it is to serve as a constant communication between the University student body and their relationships with the University Police Department to advise on decisions made [by] the department and communicate community concerns.”

Cintron appointed the other members of the Selections Committee, who represent minority student groups including the Minority Rights Coalition, the Black Student Alliance, the Latinx Student Alliance, the Queer Student Union and the Jewish Leadership Council. 

The other members of the selection committee include third-year College student Ibtisaam Amin of the Minority Rights Coalition, third-year College student Keiara Price of the Black Student Alliance, fourth-year College student Hannah Melissa Borja of Dreamers on Grounds, third-year College student Blake Hesson of the Queer Student Union, fourth-year College student Truman Brody Boyd of the Jewish Leadership Council, second-year College student Jasmine Mao of the Asian Leadership Council, third-year College student Mazzen Shalaby of the Muslim Students Association, and third-year College student Annelise Miranda of the Latinx Student Alliance.

“After the events of Aug. 11 and 12 there were expressed student concerns with the relationship between the University community and the police,” Kirk said, referencing the white nationalist rally that occurred on U.Va. Grounds in August 2017. “So when Alex Cintron ran for [Student Council] president this past spring, on his platform was the creation of a Student Police Advisory Board to better serve the facilitation of discussion between students and UPD and how best to improve relations and the effectiveness of UPD.” 

Ibtisaam Amin, a third-year College student, the chair of the Minority Rights Coalition and a member of the Selections Committee, said the Committee was looking for between 12 and 15 undergraduate students from a variety of backgrounds at the University to fill the Student Police Advisory Board. 

“Minority students are disproportionately affected by law enforcement at a national and local level, and so just broadly in an effort to make this University a safer and more inclusive space I feel that minority students and their voices should be a top priority in these discussions,” Amin said. 

Kirk said the Board will meet approximately once a month. 

“The model is kind of looking at a monthly meeting for about an hour to an hour and a half just to discuss any major things that may have occurred, community concerns that have been brought, in addition hearing from UPD,” Kirk said. 

Tommye Sutton, chief of the University Police Department, said Student Council has been working in conjunction with UPD to develop the Student Police Advisory Board. 

“We’ve been engaging with Student Council to jointly figure out the role and space in which we can engage with students,” Sutton said in an interview. “We welcome the opportunity to be able to speak to a group comprised of student groups.” 

Sutton took office as the UPD’s chief Aug. 1 of this year, replacing former Police Chief Michael Gibson, who announced his retirement in May. 

In the past year, members of the U.Va. community have criticized UPD for its response to the torchlit white nationalist rally of Aug. 11, 2017. The University and UPD also faced criticism this past August for the large law enforcement presence at a U.Va. Students United Rally held at Brooks Hall. 

“They brought the idea forth of some mechanism to interact with the police to express concerns and also be updated on initiatives, but for us as a police department that kind of fit into our larger comprehensive engagement plan to engage the community at large,” Sutton said. 

Sutton said that other components of the University Police Department’s plan to engage with the University and broader Charlottesville communities include inviting University students and faculty to participate in the hiring process for UPD officers. 

Sutton presented departmental transparency reforms to Student Council at its general body meeting Oct. 23, where he spoke about introducing a new education requirement to serve as a University police officer and overhauling the department’s outreach and engagement efforts. 

“Starting in January, when we do interviews for police officers I’m inviting community partners like Human Resources, the Office of African-American Affairs, Athletics, all various areas of the University,” Sutton said. “I’m also reserving two spots for student representation on every police interview, one for Student Council and one from a minority student group to come in.” 

The Charlottesville City Council also created an initial police civilian review board this past June with the goal of developing a set of bylaws for the actual board which is expected to be established during the summer of 2019, after City Council approves the bylaws. 

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