Syracuse Hires Ex-Attorney General to Investigate Its Police Department
Students have criticized the school’s police department for its response to student sit-ins and protests following dozens of racist incidents.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The former attorney general under President Barack Obama has been hired by Syracuse University to lead an investigation into its campus police department.
Loretta Lynch was hired due to student complaints about the Department of Public Safety’s response to a series of on-campus racist incidents and subsequent protests and sit-ins, reports WBNG.
Back in November, at least a dozen racist and anti-Semitic incidents were reported in less than two weeks. The incidents included racist graffiti against Asian people, swastikas drawn in snowbanks and dormitories, the yelling of racial slurs at African American people, and the N-word written in multiple bathrooms, among others.
In response, Syracuse students organized sit-ins and protests, demanding stronger diversity programming on campus. #NotAgainSU, which describes itself as a black student-led movement, claims the university and its police department have not properly addressed more than 25 instances of racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia reported since the beginning of the school year, according to NBC New York.
On Feb. 17, #NotAgainSU took over Crouse-Hinds Hall, calling on administrators to resign and adding to its list of demands. The group has since criticized campus police for how the sit-in was handled, claiming students were mistreated and police responded with disproportionate force.
As a result, Chancellor Kent Syverud announced Monday the decision to investigate the department.
“I believe this review is necessary given that concerns have been raised through several channels about how DPS engages with our community and how it has managed various interactions with students, including protestors,” Syverud said.
Syverud said Lynch is known for her work in police-community relations and is “widely respected for bringing voice to all sides.”
Some have criticized the school’s decision to bring in Lynch, including a student activist with #NotAgainSU. The student, who wished to remain anonymous, told NBC News that the money used to pay for the investigation would be better used to address the group’s demands.
The group’s newest demands include disarming SU public safety officers, public identification of perpetrators of hateful biased incidents, freezing tuition, acknowledgment of systemic racism and hate on campus, and changes to the housing selection process for students with disabilities. The full list of demands can be found here.
Biko Mandela Gray, an assistant professor of religion at Syracuse, agrees with the anonymous student.
“I’m so sick and tired of administrators—at every institution—’conducting investigations” instead of having the moral courage and ethical fortitude to step up and move swiftly,” he wrote in a tweet.
Amanda Nicholson, SU’s interim deputy senior vice president for enrollment and student experience, said she does not think the review will lead to any staff changes but that it “might lead to additional staff.”
Back in September, SU announced DPS would be hiring 90 new officers by Spring 2020 to provide 24-hour coverage of campus residential buildings.