Dear Sirs and Madams,
We are writing to you on behalf of Students for a Democratic Society because a disturbing incident has come to our attention.
On the morning of Monday February 10, 2014, a member of our group was in the Wilson Library. Upon arriving on the third floor, he heard loud voices and went to see what was happening. He saw two UMPD officers standing over a man sitting in a chair with a book in his lap. As the officers asked for his UCard, the gentleman acknowledged that he was not a student, but a member of the community. The two officers (Officer Fonseca and Officer Bauer, both of whom have been copied on this email) then responded by telling the man to leave. After the man verbally asserted his right to be present in a public library, Officer Fonseca demanded the man to stand. After some understandable hesitation, the gentleman stood. Disturbingly, Officer Fonseca then slammed the man against the wall claiming a need to search him for weapons. Then man verbally asserted, as is his right, that he did not consent to such a search. At the conclusion of the search, the officer escorted the man out of the library, citing new approaches to “securing campus.”
Disgusted by this blatant class profiling, the member of our group followed up with those he thought could provide answers: a librarian and Lieutenant David Wilske, the Commander of the Patrol Division. The librarian explained the library’s open door policy, confirming the man’s right to be present. With very little effort, in fact, one can find the Library Use Policy on their website. This policy asserts, “The University of Minnesota is a public land grant institution, and our collections are accessible to the citizens of the state of Minnesota, the nation, and the world.” Upon speaking with Lt. Wilske, however, our group member discovered UMPD’s derision of the policy. Passing responsibility, Lt. Wilske explained the tremendous pressure from university administrators to “take extraordinary security measures.” Amid the slew of crime alerts disseminated to students and staff on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis, who can blame the Lieutenant for feeling pressured? Although the number of crime alerts has increased seemingly exponentially, it is the UMPD’s own crime statistics that show an actual decrease of on-campus crimes (down 43% since 2002!). The City of Minneapolis’ crime statistics show the same trend for the neighborhoods surrounding the university.
This is our question to you, those who are responsible for this incident (whether directly or indirectly): Is this what your “secure campus” looks like? If it is, if police harassment and a further insulation of campus are qualities of your security, we would rather be insecure.
We attend a public land grant university, one that is funded in large part by public dollars. We believe these publicly-funded facilities should be open to all members of the community. The UMN libraries are public space. As law enforcement officers, Officers Fonseca and Bauer know that there is nothing in university policy or state statute that supports the eviction of any person from public space if they are creating no disturbance. They did just that, though. They removed a member of the public from a public space, one that he had every right to be in.
As those who hold the responsibility for securing our campus, we call on you to put an end to this type “security” measures. We call on you to reevaluate your assumption that a “secure campus” is one that is closed off from the community that it inhabits. We call on you to take responsibility for these officers’ actions. We expect that, upon hearing of this incident, you will reevaluate the assumption that you have long held that a greater police presence equals more safety. We call on you to end the policy of preventing public use of public space.
We would like to set up a time to meet with you to discuss this incident and ways to prevent future episodes.
Thank you for your time. We look forward to hearing from you soon.
Students for a Democratic Society at UMN