SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch will lead an investigation into the Syracuse University Police Department. The query is being propelled after student complaints and protests, the school announced Monday.
Lynch, who ran the Justice Department in the Obama administration for two years, will ” lead an independent, expedited review of our Department of Public Safety (DPS),” Syracuse Chancellor Kent Syverud said.
Syracuse is a private university in upstate New York with about 15,000 undergraduates. It has allegedly been rocked by a series of racist incidents followed by student protest, NBC News reported.
A self-described black-led movement of student activists, #NotAgainSU, took over a Syracuse University administration building last week, demanding a more equitable campus.
Their demands include disarming campus police since they believe they’ve been mistreated and responded to the “sit-in” with unnecessary force.
“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 wrote.
The school’s chief of public safety Bobby Maldonado said his department would embrace the review.
“I welcome the review directed by the Chancellor and look forward to reviewing any suggestions that improve our department and enhance the safety and security of the Syracuse University community,” Maldonado said in a statement released on Twitter.
— SU Public Safety (@SyracuseDPS) February 24, 2020
A student activist with #NotAgainSU, who requested anonymity out of fear of retribution and uses they/them pronouns, criticized the school’s decision, saying it was done without consulting student activists and seems to be a way to mask the larger problem.
“We have demands, we make it very clear,” the student said. “The university knows exactly what we want and they act like they don’t know what’s happening.”
The student described the decision to have Lynch investigate as “frustrating” and “really expensive,” believing the money should be spent to meet their demands. Moreover, the student claims to feel “unsafe” due to actions of the police, and cannot figure why law enforcement officers need to be carry firearms.
“As clear through the interactions with DPS last week, students feel unsafe, especially when they are armed,” the student activists wrote. “DPS has the same jurisdiction as the Syracuse Police Department (SPD).” The group said they want “peace officers” not police officers.
Biko Mandela Gray, an assistant professor of religion at Syracuse, also criticized the school’s decision to hire Lynch to investigative, NBC reported.
“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,” Gray wrote on Twitter.
In the chancellor’s announcement, he also announced Syracuse will be reviewing the way it responds to protest and will be conducting a separate independent review of the school’s “student experience” function.