As part of Students for a Democratic Society’s national day of action at colleges across America, University of South Florida students will rally to defund the USF police department tomorrow, Thursday, Sept. 9.
Members of USF’s SDS chapter will host the protest at 12:30 p.m. by the Bulls fountain near the Marshall Student Center, where they’ll demand an end to what they call the militarization of USF’s police department.
“Our defund and divest the police movement is focused on anti-racism,” says Simon Rowe, an SDS member who was arrested by USF police with several others in February for protesting on campus. “We don’t want funding to go to potential violence against people of color.”
The demands are part of an ongoing SDS defund the police campaign at USF, with several protests being held at the college over the course of the past year in response to the George Floyd uprising.
Last year, USF said its police would take a 5% cut from its more than $7.3 million 2020-21 operating budget as part of overall campus cuts, but SDS says it wants police completely off-campus, and that the funds could be put to better use.
The group has suggested using the funds to go towards student education, especially since USF considered closing the College of Education last year. In the past, SDS demanded more scholarships during their “Increase Black Enrollment” campaign and also have suggested hiring more Black faculty and counselors.
Creative Loafing Tampa Bay reached out to communications at USF Tampa for their input and will update this story if we receive a response.
Nationally, the presence of police on college and public school campuses has come under scrutiny over the past year for their use of millions of dollars of public school budgets and for what some say are historically corrupt practices.
Last year, John J. Sloan III, Professor Emeritus of Criminal Justice at University of Alabama-Birmingham wrote that campus police, “increasingly face criticism similar to that levied against municipal police over excessive force used during arrests, overly aggressive patrol tactics, racial profiling, and militarization.”
Sloan went on to explain in his article for the American Sociological Association that the idea that “bad apples” are to blame is misguided. Instead, “explanations that holistically consider the history, structure, function, and culture of campus policing offer better insight into problems that need addressing.”
In 2010, USF Police Chief Chris Daniel had a discrimination lawsuit filed against him by a former female employee; the suit alleged bizarre, harassing behavior. There seems to be no update to that case as of yet. In 2019, a USF police officer left the force, alleging that his radio was dysfunctional and body armor didn’t fit, leaving him at risk—allegations Daniel denied.
When asked if USF SDS members are worried about being arrested again for protesting USFPD, Rowe said that it’s still a worry in some of their minds.
“But the importance of the demands outweighs the fear,” Rowe says.
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