President Mark Schlissel and Provost Susan M. Collins have appointed a 20-member task force that will examine what’s working and what needs to be improved with the university’s Division of Public Safety and Security.
The Advancing Public Safety at the University of Michigan Task Force, which had its initial meeting last week, will review and assess DPSS’ current practices, identify areas of strength and areas of concern, and provide concrete recommendations for improvement that are based on best practices.
“Being safe and feeling safe are essential for an individual to take full advantage of and contribute to research, education, service and clinical care as members of the University of Michigan community. I have great confidence in DPSS, but our aspirations to excel as a world-class university require that we examine and strive to continuously improve in everything we do, including the important responsibility of public safety,” Schlissel said.
“I applaud all members of our community who are engaging in this crucial issue, particularly the members of the task force and the Provost’s Office who are working to ensure that we are truly the leaders and best in public safety.”
The task force is among several anti-racism initiatives that U-M officials announced last fall, after the deaths of George Floyd and other Black people at the hands of police sparked national conversations around structural racism and policing. Its work will focus on public safety on the Ann Arbor campus, and could serve as a model for other campuses.
“The task force will use a fact-based approach to improve understanding of policing and public safety on campus, identifying both what is going well and areas for improvement. It will engage stakeholders from across our community, using a process that is inclusive and transparent, and provides a platform to bring the U-M community together. Findings and recommendations will be made public,” Collins said.
The university was inclusive in developing the task force’s mission and composition. The provost consulted broadly on its charge. Task force members were identified after a broad array of groups on campus shared input and recommendations, and people were also able to self-nominate.
The task force is chaired by faculty members Earl Lewis of LSA and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and Daphne C. Watkins of the School of Social Work and Institute for Social Research.
Lewis is the Thomas C. Holt Distinguished University Professor of History, Afroamerican and African Studies and Public Policy; director of the Center for Social Solutions; professor of history and professor of Afroamerican and African Studies; and professor of public policy.
Watkins is a University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor; director of the Vivian A. and James L. Curtis Center for Health Equity; and professor of social work. She also is a faculty associate in ISR’s Research Center for Group Dynamics.
The other task force members are:
- Brandon Bond, graduate student, School of Social Work and School of Public Health.
- Karin Brown, graduate student, School of Education.
- Sarah Burch, hub coach, LSA Opportunity Hub, LSA.
- Julianna Collado, undergraduate student, Ford School.
- Charles H.F. Davis III, assistant professor of education, School of Education.
- Rachel Dawson, managing director, Precision Health at U-M.
- Mary Jo Desprez, Wolverine Wellness director, University Health Service.
- Mary Jo Gray, compliance manager, School of Dentistry.
- David Helps, graduate student in history, LSA.
- Crystal James, deputy chief, DPSS.
- Saveri Nandigama, undergraduate student, LSA.
- Sarah Peitzmeier, assistant professor of nursing, School of Nursing.
- Bryan Roby, assistant professor of Judaic studies and assistant professor of Middle East studies, LSA.
- Ian Ross, undergraduate student, College of Engineering.
- Michael Solomon, dean, Rackham School of Graduate Studies; vice provost for Academic Affairs – Graduate Studies; and professor, College of Engineering.
- Thomas Vance, undergraduate student, LSA.
- Eddie Washington, executive director, DPSS.
- Kimberly Yourick, parent.
The task force will examine a variety of topics, including:
- DPSS’ current practices and training related to community engagement.
- Issues related to campus policing procedures and practices.
- Perspectives and concerns from stakeholder groups.
- DPSS’ goals and its approach to carrying out its mission.
- The role and work of the Police Department Oversight Committee.
- How DPSS complaints are received, processed and investigated.
- DPSS training, protocols and policies around use of force.
In addition, experts at the Bentley Historical Library will research the history of DPSS and policing at U-M to inform task force members’ understanding of past and present frameworks for campus safety.
The task force will seek input from across the campus community, including through intentional outreach to students, faculty and staff of color. A final report is expected to be publicly presented at the end of April.