UCPD review gives locals and students a chance to vent

University of Chicago student Kevin Casto (center) weighs in on the University of Chicago Police Department during the accreditation meeting. Spencer Bibbs
University of Chicago student Kevin Casto (center) weighs in on the University of Chicago Police Department during the accreditation meeting.

-Spencer Bibbs

Staff Writer

The University of Chicago Police Department held a public forum Wednesday as part of its bid for professional certification from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA).

More than 30 students from the university attended the event to voice their concerns that UCPD has policies and faults that should prevent it from receiving accreditation.

CALEA calls itself “the gold standard in public safety.” It is a credentialing authority founded in 1979 by a group of law enforcement associations. CALEA accreditation is not something UCPD is required to have by the university or to maintain its full police powers.

CALEA lists 482 standards that address all aspects of policing. Accredited agencies are only required to meet those standards that apply to them.

Bill Buckbee, police lieutenant at Kent State University in Ohio, and Joseph Spera, director of operations for the Drexel University Department of Public Safety in Philadelphia, Penn., performed UCPD’s audit.

Kevin Casto, a student representative from Coalition for Equitable Policing (CEP) said UCPD’s complaints process does not take anonymous complaints into consideration. Additionally the steps to filing a complaint are “a sort of very intimidating process.”

Several students complained that the forum wasn’t announced until Friday afternoon of finals week, when many students were engrossed in their studies or traveling for spring break.

To view the CALEA standards students and community members needed to schedule a time to visit UCPD Headquarters at 6054 S. Drexel Blvd. ahead of the scheduled meeting. That left only two days to view the standards after returning from spring break but before the scheduled meeting.

“UCPD made no attempt to uniformly notify either student or faculty community-members of the hearing by e-mail, or other direct channel[s],” Ben Chametzky, a student at the university, said in a statement.

Chametzky in the meeting said UCPD is not required to release its records and has a lack of transparency that is alarming for an organization with full police powers.

“[They are saying] it’s okay to have full police powers but without releasing information,” Chametzky said. “[Transparency] is supposed to be essential to the power they have over us.”

Other students complained that UCPD should be more transparent when reporting who it stops and detains and that its records should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Kirsten Gendler, a student at the U. of C., said she was assaulted outside a campus dorm by a cab driver in February. When she reported it to UCPD, the officer spent an hour researching cab companies in Chicago, using Gendler’s computer, to determine which company the driver worked for.

Gendler said she paid for the cab ride using a credit card, so she thought it would be easier to find the cab company using her bank information.

“I found this strategy to be very unprofessional,” Gendler said.

Brandy Parker, an 18-year-old Woodlawn resident who does not attend the U. of C., said UCPD officers have previously told him he “does not belong in Hyde Park.”

CALEA will issue a ruling in July regarding whether UCPD will be granted accreditation, granted accreditation with reservations or denied accreditation.