Students of Color Perspectives: Police Altercation

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Hello! My name is Alejandra (Ali) Gatas Johnson and I will be one of your first-year bloggers for Students of Color Perspectives. I blog about what it means to be of mixed heritage (Afro-Venezuelan, American Swedish, and Warao Indian) and what it means to be a student of color in general here at Brown!

On November 24, 2015 there was an altercation between a Brown Public Safety campus police officer and a Latinx student visiting for the Latinx Ivy League Conference. The incident occurred at a social function at the Machado house. The verbal interaction became physical and the student guest was handcuffed with the purpose of arrest. The incident sparked further discussion about racially related police brutality.

At around 12:15am, a verbal argument between a visiting student and a police officer ensued. The Latinx student was told not to return or enter the Machado House, the residence where they were being hosted. Later in the evening, an event staff person informed the officer that the student was inside. The officer entered the Machado House with the intention to arrest and the student attempted to walk away. The interaction became physical and ultimately, the student guest was handcuffed and escorted from the social function. The Latinx student was ultimately released after Public Safety supervisors reviewed the circumstances.

This altercation mixed with rising tensions about police and administration racial discrimination at other peer institutions got the attention and concern of many students and faculty members. After the weekend of the incident many students took to Facebook stating, “Last night at Brown University, a Dartmouth College Latinx student was assaulted by campus police while attending the Latinx Ivy League Conference. Violence against people of color is a reality and follows us wherever we go. Make the problem known. ‪#‎IStandWithGeo ‬‪#‎IStandWithPOCs‬.” Many were concerned with the incident and worried about the safety and implication of what happened for students of color and Brown as a whole.

Since the incident has occurred, Brown has done an internal review and found the police officer did not follow proper procedure. The physical force used did follow proper policy. The police officer’s position has been terminated. After a conclusive, full review was carried out, the Executive Vice President, Russell Carey, sent a community-wide email detailing the findings of the review/incident. It is so wonderful to know that the administration wants to keep students informed about things that happen on campus. It is also reassuring to know that the police officer involved is no longer employed by the university. Ultimately, it is nice to know that Brown cares about its students and their guests to perform investigations concerning their safety and well being. However, this incident does reignite a question of police racial profiling. Racially sparked issued are not immune to the Ivy League. National conflicts are also present here. The difference is that the administration is listening and, in my opinion, cares to make a change. 

If you have any questions or comments about this post or about being a student of color in general, please hit me up at alejandra_gatas_johnson@brown.edu.

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