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What is the UMBC Police Department doing?

Without a doubt, the UMBC campus police department has a serious presence on campus. Be it in the form of officers in uniform at events for security, or the numerous tickets posted for parking violations, if one spends any meaningful amount of time on campus they are undoubtedly going to run into the police.

However, that presence does not necessarily translate into “effectiveness” in their stated mission “to provide a safe and secure environment, that enhances the quality of life for the university community.” In many ways, the campus police seem to completely fail in this regard.

One task that falls to the department is ensuring the atmosphere of the campus remains healthy and welcoming to all students. The department fails at this with its policy of inaction in regards to hate crimes.

There have already been almost half a dozen reported cases of Nazi-related vandalism on campus this past year, but this is not the first case of such an occurrence. Last year there were repeated cases of stickers and flyers with messages ranging from avocations for violence against left-leaning students and staff to encouragement for white students to “protect their culture” by reporting students suspected of being in the country illegally.

The police’s response to this was nonexistent. When these postings were discovered, the police referred concerned students to facilities, who gave them lukewarm assurances that the postings would be taken down within a few days. This never materialized, leading students to take them down themselves, without any aid.

The police were similarly off the ball in terms of attempting to catch the offenders and enforce campus posting policy. In fact, one group known as “Identity Evropa” took responsibility for some of the postings on their public Facebook page. The campus police, when made aware of this last semester, took no public action against the group, despite having the official policy of assessing a $25 fine for each unauthorized posting.

Aside from the inaction in regards to hate crimes on campus, the campus police department, and the university as a whole, is currently under an open federal investigation for failure to properly comply with Title IX guidelines in regards to cases of sexual assault on campus. According to the Baltimore Post-Examiner, the reported violations include a refusal by the campus investigators to admit a forensic rape examination as evidence, as well as the insistence by the same investigators that the victim does not go to the Baltimore County Police.

The assertion that police have failed, in many regards, is one that tends to immediately cause discomfort. There is a tendency to conflate critiques of the institution of the police with individuals or individual actions by those individuals. To put it plainly, this critique is not a critique of any individual, but rather of an institution.

Justice is an issue very important to many people, and as such, any critical discussion of the systems that promote justice is taken seriously. However, it is not healthy for a society to hold those institutions above criticism. Rather, we ought to demand constant improvement and excellence, and that comes as reforms, namely those that would see sexual assault cases and hate crimes taken as seriously by the department as parking violations.