USC

Report Unveiled on Reforms to USC Public Safety Department

An advisory board began meeting last year in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis to discuss the future of policing on the USC campus.

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When the Los Angeles City Council re-examined its police department following the murder of George Floyd last year, the president of USC did the same by empowering a community advisory board to explore reforms to the university’s department of public safety.

More than 700 people, including students, staff, faculty and community members, were part of the process that led to a final report unveiled Wednesday. It details what should and shouldn’t change at the 306-member university department of public safety. 

The advisory board was chaired by Dr. Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro, professor of political science and an NBC4 political analyst, and counter-terrorism expert Dr. Errol Southers, head of the university’s Safe Communities Institute and a law enforcement analyst for NBC4. 

At the outset, the report dismissed one demand — the university will not eliminate its police department. 

And, legally, it cannot keep the LAPD off the campus. 

“By law, we can’t do that even though we are a private institution in the city of Los Angeles, so what it did was broker a conversation of what we can do in the future,” Southers said. 

Among the recommendations were greater transparency of policing on campus; independent oversight to investigate complaints against officers; relying on mental health professionals to meet with students in crisis and not armed officers; and changes in recruitment. 

“Campus policing is very different from municipal or harbor policing, and having 20 years in law enforcement doesn’t necessarily make you prepared to become a campus police officer,” Southers said. “We have a number of officers at DPS who have been there for many years. who are from the community, and we feel that may be where we go in the future.”

Since the review started 10 months ago, homicides in Los Angeles have spiked — up 36 percent over last year. The city has restored its police budget following previous cuts.

That makes the recommendations of  the report more important, not less, Dr. Hancock Alfaro said. 

“DPS officers need to be focused on those true threats, and then have other folks who don’t need to be armed to do all the other jobs that have been put on DPS’s plate,” Hancock Alfaro said. 

Click here to view the full report. 

NBCLA's Jonathan Lloyd contributed to this article.

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