Claims of racial profiling prompt RHA town hall meeting

Daily Sundial

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As a result of African-American students expressing concerns about being unfairly treated and targeted by CSUN police, eight out of the 27 officers in Department of Public Safety will participate in additional training on racial profiling in early 2006.

The decision to provide additional training came after Chief of Police Anne Glavin said she was concerned about complaints she heard weeks ago of racial profiling from mostly African-Americans, which initiated a Residence Halls Association town hall meeting held Tuesday night in the Satellite Student Union San Fernandeno Room.

The meeting included segments of students who complained and complimented CSUN police, a response from Glavin and a brainstorming session.

CSUN police will continue to look into two complaints of racial profiling that were filed this semester, Glavin said.

“It’s not that our officers don’t understand this,” Glavin said at the meeting in regard to racial profiling.

The officers received training about racial profiling before they came to CSUN PD, she said, adding that every officer receives additional training on the issue when they arrive. Some of the eight officers came in after the additional training and will receive it for the first time, while others will receive the additional training again, she said.

In 2005, CSUN police received more than 40 compliments and 10 complaints, Glaving said, adding that the complaints were invalid and not related to racial profiling.

“There is a problem, and this problem should be addressed,” said Vin Wilson, junior business administration and biology major and former University Park Apartment resident. “We’re all citizens and students, and we still have rights – .I feel my rights were violated and nothing was done about it.”

Wilson said he was stopped by CSUN police on at least five different occasions on housing grounds since he was a freshman.

At the meeting, Wilson spoke on one occasion he was coming from a night class, riding his bike, when he was stopped by CSUN police. His bike did not have a light, which he acknowledged was his fault, but he said he was spoken to in a demeaning way and felt it was because he was black.

Other residents who stood up at the meeting, the majority of them African American, told their stories of either feeling like they were unfairly targeted or mistreated. CSUN police was also complimented by some students on its staff’s professionalism.

Patrice Ferguson, senior Pan-African Studies major, also spoke and said she thought she was a victime of racial profiling. She said her and a friend were in car waiting for a parking space when an CSUN officer told her she was illegally parked. Ferugson said she moved, stopped again and was ticketed, as the officer overlooked white students who were parked illegally.

Glavin said that she could not comment in detail on each complaint because of a lack of the officers’ side of the stories, context, timing and other factors. She also said they were not timely, and it would be difficult to investigate them among several other cases, if they were even filed.

“It would be kind of like trying to find a needle in a haystack,” Glavin said.

Glavin did say, however, that if the claims of the students were true, that she does not tolerate racial profiling or disrepect in her deparment.

“I’m embarrassed by it,” Glavin said about the complaints. “I’m mortified by it, and I’m extremely – disgusted.”

RHA plans to work together with CSUN police to foster closer relationships between students and officers in coming months.

One idea presented at the meeting was “Cops n’ Chops,” a barbecue event that would allow students and the CSUN police staff to socialize.

There are times when a police officer’s treatment may be justified, and if that is the case, CSUN police will say so, Glavin said, adding that her job is to be objective and view both sides.

“I think it was actually productive,” Ferguson said of the meeting. “It seems like there was mutual respect. She addressed everyone’s complaints professionally and not in a defensive manner as you would expect.”

Ferguson, however, said she felt more could have been addressed in what students are obligated to comply with by law.

“If we all know the rules, then the game gets played a little cleaner,” she said.

About 20 to 30 people attended the meeting. More, however, were suppose to come but feared they might be reprimanded or harassed by police officers if they did, said Jasmin Young, president of RHA, adding that some students were afraid to file complaints.

“I think that whenever (students) have a perception that the police is mistreating them because of their race, it’s something we have to bring attention to,” said Melissa Giles, associated director for Residential Life. “And I think their perception is their reality, so we have to treat it as (if) it was true.”

RHA plans to educate its residents in Spring 2006 about the rights they have when approached by an officer.

Student can file complaints or compliments on the CSUN PD’s website.

“In addition to talking to themselves and feeling all that anger and pain – the message we want to get out is that they can file a complaint, and that that complaint will be taking seriously,” Giles said.

Samuel Richard can be reached at city@csun.edu.