Black College Campus Student Groups Want Pennsylvania Police to Wear Body Cameras

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Black campus groups are calling for Penn Police to adopt body cameras — but Penn Police says it will not be adopting the technology any time soon.

Leaders of each of the three main black community groups on campus all say they want Penn Police to adopt body cameras. But Penn Police says that storing camera data is expensive, and they are not currently moving forward with the initiative.

“There are lots of pros and cons to having a body camera on,” said Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush in a January interview. While the cameras provide greater accountability, she said that it is expensive to store the footage and that officers must shut off the cameras in private residences if they are so requested.

“I support body cameras all the way” said UMOJA co-chair and College sophomore Ray Clark. “In any scenario, it brings accountability to the issue.”

Clark is concerned about racial profiling close to campus. “I definitely feel there’s a stigma against the West Philadelphia community,” he said. “Specifically where we’re neighbors and we treat them as though they’re enemies.”

Penn National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Chapter President and College senior Keishawn Johnson said all police departments, including Penn Police, should adopt body cameras. “It’s something police should do naturally as an effort for visibility,” he said.

“I think many black men on this campus have just accepted this as part of their daily lives,” Johnson said about racial profiling by Penn Police. “In some respect it’s just to be expected and to be handled.” With regards to the greater Philadelphia community, Johnson said, “We need to be better at recognizing that Penn lives in other people’s homes.”

Students Organizing for Unity and Liberation recruiting chair and Wharton and Engineering junior Jamal Taylor, said he too believes there is “a disparity between how many times a black student will be asked ‘Are you a Penn student here?’” as compared to that for white students.

“Oftentimes the AlliedBarton [guards] will ask to see your PennCard to make sure that you actually do attend the school,” Taylor said. “Especially at night, a lot of students are stopped and questioned by the police.”

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Source: The Daily Pennsylvanian | DAVID CAHN

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