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Column: Against the chancellor’s proposed police academy

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Column: Against the chancellor’s proposed police academy

Sam Beard, Southern Illinois University Carbondale student trustee poses for a portrait Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, outside of the communications building in Carbondale, Illinois. (Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Sam Beard, Southern Illinois University Carbondale student trustee poses for a portrait Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, outside of the communications building in Carbondale, Illinois. (Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Brian Munoz

Sam Beard, Southern Illinois University Carbondale student trustee poses for a portrait Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, outside of the communications building in Carbondale, Illinois. (Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Brian Munoz

Brian Munoz

Sam Beard, Southern Illinois University Carbondale student trustee poses for a portrait Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, outside of the communications building in Carbondale, Illinois. (Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Last week a group of students (myself included) produced and released a short video articulating a variety of reasons why the campus community should come together in bold opposition to the chancellor’s proposed police academy.

I could sit here for hours, ratting off reasons why we should not allow our newest campus CEO to open up a cop academy at SIU, but here are just a few.

The point of the university is to change the world, the role of the police is to keep it the same. As such, they are antithetical institutions, their missions stand in contradiction to one another.


Whether it is developing cutting edge technologies to advance climate interests, developing revolutionary theories in physics or mathematics or uncovering breakthroughs in sociological concepts, the university must function for the betterment of society.

As hub of intellectual activity and a research university, our purpose is to facilitate the creation and transfer of the various types of knowledge required to respond intelligently to the many crises facing contemporary society.

And one of the crises we face today is a crisis of policing. But this humanitarian disaster is absolutely nothing new.

Since their inception, U.S. policing forces have targeted every meaningful social movement aimed at challenging the status quo.

From the labor movement of the 1800’s to the anti-war movement of 1960’s, the government has always used the cops as its primary force of repression.

As said so eloquently by the first student speaker in the video, the “police still do what they’ve always done: they use violence to maintain class inequality and racial hierarchy… backed by the largest prison system this world has ever seen.”

The police always have and always will be a fundamentally racist intuition.

We like to hold this notion that cops have just always been a thing and that society needs police, which is why they exist.

But cops were created at a specific moment in American history and for a specific purpose—to protect the interests of the wealthy, white elites.

Historically speaking, when the police first emerged in the southern United States their function was to control the behavior of minorities and catch runaway slaves.

Dr. Victor Kappeler of Eastern Kentucky University writes “[t]he similarities between the slave patrols and modern American policing are too salient to dismiss or ignore. Hence, the slave patrol should be considered a forerunner of modern American law enforcement.”

Trace the lineage of early policing from slave patrols up through the post-Civil War era of lynching, the Civil Rights movement, the War on Drugs and into today, and what has changed?

The whip has been replaced by the Taser, the noose by the Glock 22 and Jim Crow laws have been displaced by the ways in which the War on Drugs has created a racialized under-caste in America.

The modes of anti-black violence have changed quite significantly along the way, but the form, white supremacy, still reigns supreme.

In fact, the racist functionality of policing is so heavily ingrained in the practice that it really does not matter whether an individual cop wants to be racist or not, they are participating in the very institution that makes possible America’s white supremacist racial order.

“Given this context, the police academy is nothing less than an attempt to rebrand SIU as a white university,” the second speaker in the video maintains.

The cops only “protect and serve” the interests of the ruling class.

The foremost mode of exploitation in this country is that of the legal sort: the various oppressions people face under capitalism.

Non-livable wages, wickedly high rents, meaningless and miserable dead end jobs, polluting industries, union-busting, insane profit margins for the ultra-wealthy—the list goes on and on.

By selectively enforcing property laws, the police are the ones who stand between every hungry person and the fully-stocked grocery store shelves, between every homeless person and the buildings standing empty.

The police protect the gross wealth of Wall Street fat cats and lavishly compensated executives and are the ones who took the side of Energy Transfer Partners in the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, beating and macing the water protectors.

The police are the ones who just evicted a single mother—who now has nowhere to live—and who will lose her children as a result.

The common justification for this is that “they are just doing their jobs.”

But that’s just it, isn’t it?

Their job is to maintain legalized inequality under capitalism, and injustice and endless violence are just part of the job.

According to our school’s mission statement, SIU aims to “create and exchange knowledge to shape future leaders, improve our communities, and transform lives.”

But whose communities ought we improve, all communities or just wealthy communities?

Whose lives ought we transform? Because the cops have become quite efficient at fundamentally preventing the transformation of black lives.

We already know the counter narrative: SIU’s proposed police academy will aim to create 21st century cops of integrity, nuanced in the various cultures of America’s minorities.

But this is non-sense, and we all know it.

Policing in the United States has been given hundreds of years to prove that it is more than just an institution of violence, rotten to its very core.

But it cannot.

It has never been able to prove itself as a force of justice in this country, in fact, quite the contrary. That little video has garnered nearly 10,000 views on Twitter and been shared over 225 times across various social media platforms.

The damn thing has gone viral.

However, concrete social change does not happen from behind a computer screen—it happens when communities step into the unknown together.

Let’s do just that.

#NoCopAcademy Student Trustee Sam Beard can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at (618) 453-8418. His office is located in the Registered Student Organization Suite on the third floor of the Student Center and his office hours are Mondays and Thursdays: 12:30 pm – 2 pm or by appointment.


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7 Responses to “Column: Against the chancellor’s proposed police academy”

  1. Bradley Sketcher on March 29th, 2018 10:46 am

    The Chancellor should resign.

  2. Colleen Wieczorek on March 29th, 2018 10:53 am

    While I agree that there are many problems with police in this country, I don’t agree that is a bad move for SIU to have a police academy. If universities are meant to be institutions of learning that aim to shape better leaders for the future, then why not put a police academy in that place? Such an academy would not change the entire campus, rather I believe it would provide the opportunity for the campus to shape the academy. We shouldn’t be fighting the idea of a police academy, but instead, fight to decide what it would look like and mean to the students. We have a chance to raise our voices and demand that the issues we care about get addressed and woven into the required training of these new officers on our campus. We can continue to complain about the problems with our police forces, or we can take the opportunity to influence the next generation of officers to be more well-rounded in their education. I think I’ll take the latter.

  3. Stephen Serati on March 29th, 2018 12:28 pm

    I feel differently

  4. Will on March 29th, 2018 1:22 pm

    As a left-of-center SIU alum (with a liberal arts degree, no less), I just want to say that I find Sam’s constant extreme liberal overreactions to be tiresome and embarrassing and want people to know that he does not represent a majority. I’ll be happy when he finally gets his philosophy degree and heads back to Naperville so the DE’s opinion page might find some sense of sanity again. This is NOT Sam’s SIU. This is OUR SIU. If we want to improve the state of law enforcement in this country, we”re not going to do it by protesting programs that aim to produce a better trained and more diverse LE workforce. Want to see real change? Protest unfair legislation and the justice system that convicts offenders at disproportionate rates. Posting #nocopacademy on Twitter and organizing campus police protests isn’t going to get it done.

  5. Linda on March 29th, 2018 2:50 pm

    Please help me understand this statement: ‘The police always have and always will be a fundamentally racist intuition.’

    For someone to say the police “always will be a fundamentally racist intuition” is inaccurate.
    This mentality goes several different ways! Racism is an issue, but that is not because of policing, it’s the point of view and how people are raised. I live in Saint Louis, and of all places, St. louis is the most divided city in the country for multiple reasons.

    As much as everyone has their own opinions about whether or not a “Cop Academy” would work for a campus such as SIUC, Colleges and university are losing money and you are asking them to budget a “Academy”. I don’t see how many people will agree to this.

  6. Dave on March 29th, 2018 4:20 pm

    This is literally the dumbest article I’ve ever read in my entire life.

  7. Keith Bradley on March 29th, 2018 6:07 pm

    Mr. Beard,

    Please, go and demand a refund for any tuition you have paid to SIUC. You have been cheated out of an education. Your writing is an embarrassment and you apparently have no idea the purpose of a university or the police. Your grasp of history and the social sciences seem to be nonexistent.

    Keith Bradley ’89

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