An image of the campus police headquarters, located at Sussex Court behind Robarts Library.

Who Are the Campus Police? A “Deep” Dive Into Campus Safety

I was walking north on Huron the other day, bothering my parents on the phone (as per usual), when I reached the Campus Police headquarters at Sussex Court and was offered candy and hot chocolate. I’m not the best at human interaction, especially thinking on my feet, so before I could even process what had happened, I had said “no thank you”, and continued on my way. Sugar is my favourite food group, so I was a little angry at myself, but I was also curious about why the campus police would be offering candy outside Sussex Court on a regular Friday. Not only that- I’ve recently become aware of the fact that I don’t even know who the campus police are, let alone why they would hand out candy. A quick search across the U of T social media platforms informed me they were kicking off their holiday season toy drive. Props, campus police. Here’s the problem, though: now I knew about the candy, but I still didn’t know about the campus police, and what their presence on campus means for us students. Now, I am not the best/definitely the worst at talking to people, especially when I don’t know them before hand, so unfortunately this little deep-dive into the campus police will mainly reflect on the contents of their website. However, if you take a look at the @healthyuoft Instagram page, this week we’ll be featuring a bunch of unique perspectives regarding campus police! Now, let’s get into this. My action plan:
  • Who are the campus police? How are they different from campus security?
  • What do they stand for?
  • Where do they store the extra candy canes?
So, I admit that I learned about a week ago that the campus police officers are something called “special constables”, which, according to their website, means that they have been “granted enhanced authority by the province through the Toronto Police Services Board”. In short, they have the authority of police officers while on campus. Brief aside: they say that this all allows for less actual Toronto Police presence on campus, but if they have the authority of the Toronto Police on campus, isn’t that kind of contradictory? Some of their roles are listed, the ones of primary importance to us students being their authority to make arrests. I know they were probably going for a “protect the students” vibe here, but unfortunately the fact of the matter is there are some students who will see this ability, and immediately feel unsafe on campus. Is there anything we can do as a community to change this? Brief aside: Are they armed? What sort of rights do we, as students, have? Who can they arrest, and what sort of justification do they need for making an arrest? TL;DR: From what I’ve gathered, they’re essentially just police officers. I don’t know about you guys (and I’m a bit of an annoying person), but I’m left with more questions than answers. I’m running out of space (a.k.a., I just hit my word limit), so bear with me a minute. A gif of a big brown bear moving a paw. Alright. Their mission statement is fairly clear, and quite respectable. They talk about respecting the dignity of all persons, fair and impartial treatment of all individuals, and- as you probably have guessed – “creating a safe, secure and equitable environment” for everybody on campus. This is all good in theory, but who gets held responsible when one of the values isn’t held up? How do they make sure that everybody is treated impartially? We cannot ignore the fact that to a large community of people on campus, the campus police represent something in direct opposition of a majority of the values the claim to uphold. That may be the most important thing I’ve learned by perusing their website- it’s all picturesque on the outside, but the reality is that many students have had unpleasant interactions with police-type figures on campus. This brings me to my final point: complaints. The campus police website very clearly details the process for submitting a complaint about a member of the service, which I applaud. However, and I’ll be the first to admit that I get confused very easily, it was a little confusing right from the get-go. If you have an answer to my main concern, please comment it down below! They say that the member receiving the complaint will obtain the complainant’s name, address and telephone number, but does that mean that the person a student is complaining about has to have direct interaction with the student about the complaint before anything else? I’ve never personally interacted with the campus police (apart from when they offered me candy), but if I knew that I might have to give my personal information to somebody I was filing a complaint against, I would probably do my best to avoid them. So what do you think? Did I misunderstand this? As of yet, no information on where they keep the candy. I'll let you know once I make some headway with my investigation. For ease of access, I’ll link the website right HERE: Campus Police Website And to reiterate, the most important thing I learned today: We’re all joined together in that the St. George campus is a place we frequent. If we want everybody to feel comfortable and safe visiting campus, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves about the services on campus, and what they really mean to all students. If you're looking for ways to learn about student experiences with the campus police, be sure to check out the @healthyuoft instagram account. This week, we'll be posting a lot about the various perspectives and experiences of those around campus in dealing with the campus police. I'd also highly suggest taking a peek at the Campus Police website I linked above- although there isn't a clear list of our rights as students, it's always good to know what they're trying to achieve on campus. In the wise words of High School Musical, A scene from high school musical, where they're all singing and dancing in the gym. The text reads "We're all in this together".

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